Passover brings the same challenge each year – especially for the baker. That is, how to make an array of delicious and unique desserts – without the use of flour (or any other leavening ingredients, for that matter). This task is additionally complicated by the fact that dairy is often off-limits too.
So when I find a recipe that works – and that my family agrees is a “keeper” – I tend to bring it back year after year. And this sponge cake is no exception. Moist and deeply flavorful, I am a big fan of this classic Passover dessert. It comes out consistently delicious and keeps for days, too.
But – aside from the same-old dusting of powdered sugar (the kosher-for-Passover kind, of course!), it lacked that “wow” factor. So a few years ago I candied some orange and lemon slices and placed them on top – for a pretty presentation that looked lovely on our table.
Making candied citrus slices is super easy – and can provide a quick garnish for any dessert!
Note: The recipe for the sponge cake is inspired by this recipe from Epicurious.
For the cake:
potato starch (for dusting cake pan)
2 tsp vegetable oil or non-stick cooking spray
1/2 cup matzah cake meal
3/4 cup potato starch
8 extra-large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
juice of 1 large lemon
1 tsp each freshly grated orange and lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
For the candied citrus slices:
1 large orange, cut into 1/8” thick slices
1 large lemon (or 2 small), cut into 1/8” thick slices
1-2 cups sugar
Make the cake: Pre-heat oven to 350. Grease a 9” springform pan with the oil or cooking spray; dust with potato starch.
Beat the egg yolks in an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and beat for 3 more minutes.
Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the juices and zests, followed by both extracts. With mixer turned off, sift the cake meal and potato starch over the top. Mix till just blended and transfer batter to a large bowl. Clean and dry the mixer bowl.
Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites till foamy. Add the salt and beat till the whites hold glossy peaks. Gently fold into the cake batter and pour into your prepared pan.
Bake till a tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack, then loosen the sides to let cool completely.
While cake is baking, prepare the citrus slices: place slices in a saucepan with enough equal parts sugar and water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook till sugar dissolves. Simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let slices cool in the syrup. Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet to dry. Arrange slices atop cake just prior to serving.
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.
Although I love tweaking traditional recipes, especially around Passover, (hello White Wine Braised Chicken or Manischewitz Ice Cream) there are some foods I never thought I’d touch. Such as my Bubbe’s matzo ball soup.
The rich homemade broth and with light and fluffy matzo balls and rounds of carrots, celery and my favorite parsnips. Its magically powers are unparalleled. Matzo ball soup has the ability to cure most ailments, bad days, and even my gentile friends request it all year long.
But Passover food can be heavy. Potato kugel, chopped liver, flourless chocolate cake. I love it all, but sometimes it just doesn’t love me! The lack of greens and abundance of browns is apparent. This green soup cures that. What’s greatabout it is that you can pretty much throw in any greens you have in your fridge: broccoli, kale, Swiss chard. Throw it in there! It’s vegetarian friendly, and can be made ahead of time. In fact. The flavors just intensify as the days go on. Make sure to store the matzah balls separately, unless you want green balls. Which isn’t totally a bad thing.
For matzah balls:
½ cup vegetable stock
1 cup matzah meal
¼ cup grated onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
4 Tbsp butter (can use margarine, but butter preferred)
1 medium white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium Russet potato (about 1 pound), washed peeled and small diced
½ bunch asparagus tops and stems, chopped
1 cup spinach, rough chopped
1 cup arugula
¼ bunch parsley, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
Juice from ½ lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
To make matzah balls, separate the egg whites from the egg yolks. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, stock, matzah meal, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. Do not over mix, this leads to dense balls. Then a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand or stand mixer until you have stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the matzah mixture until just combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
When ready to make soup, heat a large pot of water to a simmer. Shape the matzah mixture into 12-15 1-inch balls. Place balls into water and simmer for 30 minutes or until matzah balls are cooked. Check doneness by cutting one ball in half. The color should be uniform all the way through.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 7-8 minutes until onion is cooked though and translucent. If onion starts to brown, turn heat down. Then add garlic and cook for one more minute.
Then add the potatoes, asparagus, spinach, arugula, parsley and broth and turn heat back up to medium. Simmer covered for about 10-15 minutes until asparagus and potatoes are tender. Don’t overcook or your vegetables will turn pea green.
Turn off heat, and blend soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add additional broth if your soup is very thick.
Season with lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with matzah balls.
When I look at rhubarb, it reminds me of some sort of alien plant. It’s not really appealing, and yet it is so coveted for spring cooking. I will admit: it does some wonderful things when cooked despite its unusual appearance.
Others may say that this simple vegetable has genius qualities and a beautiful color. Which is does of course. On its own it can be bitter, but when paired with fruit, especially springtime strawberries, it balances perfectly in many combinations.
Since rhubarb has been in abundance at my local farmer’s market, and because I love trying new things, I decided it was high time I conquered my apprehension around rhubarb. Also my husband loves it, so it’s an easy way to shut him up for a bit.
Shavuot…rhubarb abundance…it was clear a strawberry rhubarb topped cheesecake was only natural for this time of year.
Some of my other favorite strawberry rhubarb recipes to highlight?
Strawberry Rhubarb Blintzes from Leah Koenig
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream from Naomi Sugar
Rhubarb Rugelach from Tamar Fox
Love Jewish food? Sign up for our weekly Nosher recipe newsletter!
For the topping:
2 cups rhubarb, sliced
1 cup strawberries, sliced
2 Tbsp orange juice
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp cornstarch
For the crust:
10 whole graham crackers
¼ cup melted butter
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp sea salt
For the filling:
3 8 ounce packages of full fat cream cheese
2 cups sour cream
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse graham crackers, sugar, salt and melted butter until crumbs form.
Press crumbs into bottom of springform pan. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Allows to cool completely.
In a large bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest. Mix in eggs.
Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared graham cracker crust. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until middle is just set but jiggles slightly. Allow to cool on a wire rack and then chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
To make the topping, place rhubarb, strawberries and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 7-10 minutes, until the strawberries and rhubarb start breaking down. Combine corn starch and water and add to rhubarb-strawberry mixture. Continue cooking another 5-7 minutes until mixture is thick and strawberries and rhubarb are completely broken down and soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
After the cheesecake and topping have both cooled, spoon strawberry-rhubarb mixture on top of cheesecake. Serve chilled.
I grew up eating lots of very traditional Italian-American lasagna, baked ziti and anything else you could cover in homemade tomato sauce and cheese. And I loved it – I mean who doesn’t!? Garfield the cat was even one of my heroes growing up. I always appreciated his feisty-ness towards his sibling (Odie), his appreciation of napping and of course his love of lasagna.
In the past few years I have yearned for lasagnas with a little more flair, and a little less sauce. I have made a white pumpkin lasagna, and a white lasagna with spinach and pine nuts. I have included a béchamel, and left it out. I have even experimented with different kinds of cheeses.
As the greens of spring have taken over at my local farmer’s market, a lasagna recipe was once again creeping into my head. Peas, fresh herbs…something was simmering.
When I suggested a puree of spring peas with herbs basked into a creamy lasagna, my husband was less than enthusiastic. He responded to the idea saying, “Um..ok. I guess let’s see how it turns out.”
I love it when my husband has to admit he was wrong, and in the case of this lasagna, he had to concede defeat as he shoveled another bite into his mouth. And though I actually hate peas, this lasagna is absolutely out of this world, creamy and full of fresh spring flavors. It’s also perfect for a Shavuot celebration. Pair with a crisp glass of white wine and a simple mixed green salad and you have a complete meal especially appropriate for a June lunch.
I actually ended up making this recipe two ways. Once with regular, store-bough lasagna noodles which was delicious. And a second version with homemade spinach noodles. You can try either – they were both creamy, lighter than you might think and really yummy. It really depends on the amount of work you want to put in. Making your own noodles is delicious, but much more time consuming.
Love Jewish food? Sign up for our weekly Nosher recipe newsletter!
8 ounces whole milk ricotta
8 ounces mascarpone cheese (or another 8 ounces of ricotta)
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
¼ cup grated parmesan
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp fresh mint
1 Tbsp fresh parsley
1 Tbsp fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
12-15 lasagna noodles or homemade spinach noodles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Boil a large pot of salted water. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pot as the water is coming to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles as directed, around 7-8 minutes. Drain water and layer noodles on a baking sheet drizzled with a smidge of olive oil to prevent sticking. You can also put sheets of parchment paper in between noodles.
In a food processor fitted with blade attachment, pulse peas, herbs and melted butter until desired smoothness.
In a large bowl mix together ricotta, mascarpone, all but 1 cup of the grated mozzarella, parmesan, fresh herbs, egg and the pea mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix until just combined.
Drizzle bottom of a 9X13 baking with olive oil. Layer lasagna noodles so that they overlap just slightly on top of one another. The bottom layer should be 4 noodles. Layer about a third of the cheese-pea mixture on top and smooth using a spatula or back of a spoon.
Repeat with three layers. On top of the third layer of noodles, add the remaining grated mozzarella, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and another drizzle of olive oil.
Cover with tin foil.
Bake for 25-30 minutes covered. Remove foil. Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and slightly bubbly. Allow to cool before cutting.
One of the best things about spring–radishes. It’s like all they want to do is pop out of the ground and jump onto our plates in all of their pink and purple glory. While it’s easy and delicious to eat them raw–crunching into them or tossing them into a salad–cooking radishes is a delectable and under-appreciated treatment.
1 bunch radishes, cut in halves or wedges
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of salt
Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and melt it, letting it brown for a couple of seconds.
Add the radish wedges and cover for about 5 minutes.
Season to taste.
Whether eating seasonally is important to you or it’s just something you read about on food blogs, I bet you’ve been paying attention to at least one thing as spring makes way for summer: rhubarb season. Rhubarb is one of the few produce items that is nearly impossible to get out of season. But good news–the time is here and the rhubarb is ready for all of your creativity.
To get the creative/rhubarb juices flowing, here are a few tantalizing recipes to try:
Are you the type of person who likes to come home and treat yourself to a trendy cocktail? If that’s your thing, try making your own Rhubarb Bitters for your next drink.
Although it’s often relegated to the dessert course, rhubarb can wear other hats, too, like in this Chicken with Rhubarb and Fennel from the Wall Street Journal. The rich, flavorful thighs provide a good balance to the tangy rhubarb.
For vegetarians looking to add some pop to their entrees, try this Curried Lentil with Rhubarb Chutney. This dish is impressive for a host of reasons, but mostly because, unlike typical chutney, this rhubarb condiment is only sweetened with chopped dates. As the recipe’s author points out–don’t be afraid of the long list of ingredients. You probably already have many of the ingredients.
As a follow-up to these exoctic spice combinations, take a tip from the Brittish and treat yourself to Rhubarb Fool with Cardamon Cream. The man behind Lottie and Doof has a serious soft spot for rhubarb, so if you aren’t feeling fool-ish (pun definitely intended), check out his archives.
Finally, check out La Domestique’s “10 Ways Tuesday” for ten very different ways to use your rhubarb this season. (Consider substituting some more of those chicken thighs and drumsticks for the crispy pork dish.)