Posts Tagged 'Jewish'

Matzo Balls

Lest you think that Passover cooking was over after my big at-home feast, don’t be silly.  I volunteered, again, to make matzo balls to put in the soup for the community seder for our congregation.  That’s about 210 matzo balls.  So I spent Saturday morning with two giant pots boiling away, instead of sleeping in.


My mother and her sisters used to argue about whose matzo balls were the most feathery and light (there are some people who like them firm and chewy – a shondana as mother would have said. Aren’t you ashamed to have made such leaden matzo balls!)  So I learned the secret of fluffy matzo balls – seltzer.  But I wanted matzo balls that were not only light, as in fluffy, but light as in low fat.  So a few years ago, I began tinkering with the family recipe.  First I switched the melted chicken fat to canola oil. This also made them vegetarian, which was a handy improvement.  Then I reduced the amount of oil to 1 tablespoon.  Next, I replaced 3 of the eggs with egg substitute.   Now the matzo balls are light nutritionally as well as in the sense my mother demanded.

One of the reasons to lighten up the matzo balls was that, although the traditional way of serving them is in soup, I like leftover matzo balls for breakfast, cut in half and heated in a frying pan coated with cooking spray. Drenched with maple syrup, they’re so good.  And they’re not too shabby if you cut them in half and sprinkle them with some garlic power and/or other seasonings before you reheat them.  They make a good side dish.  They are, after all, a form of dumplings.

I realize this is too late for Passover this year, but save the recipe for next year.  Or just make them for the heck of it – they’re good any time of year.  Why restrict them to a holiday.

Matzo Balls

1Tablespoon canola oil
1 large egg
¾ cup egg substitute
1 cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup seltzer

Mix oil, egg, egg substitute and salt together in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended.  Add the matzo meal and beat with the mixer on medium speed until well blended. Gently fold in the seltzer until everything is well incorporated. Be sure your seltzer is reasonably fresh and has some bubble to it.  Flat seltzer makes for lead matzo balls.  The batter will foam up as you mix it.  Cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.  Bring a large pot of water to a full boil. Reduce to a medium boil. Form matzo batter into balls a bit smaller than golf balls. I do this by scooping up a bit of the batter with the tips of my fingers and rolling it in my palms so there won’t be raggedy edges.  This often requires occasional hand washing to keep your hands from getting too gooey.  But homemade matzo balls don’t need to be perfectly shaped, so don’t over roll them.  Your matzo balls may look a bit small, but here is where the fluffy happens. Drop the matzo balls in boiling water as you make them. They will sink to the bottom of the pot and in a few moments they will rise to the surface of the water, doubled in size. Fluffy! Cover the pot and cook for 40 minutes.  Remove the matzo balls from the pot with a slotted spoon.   This makes about 16 matzo balls with one gram of fat each.

See, they’re a little rough around the edges, but they’re fluffy.


I almost always make a double recipe so I have leftovers – Even when I’m making a large quantity, I never make more than a double recipe.  I’m not sure the seltzer would work well in a bigger batch and, besides, 32 is about the maximum my big pot can hold at any one time.  So I just make repeated batches.

If you are going to store them for a day or so, drain them on the counter and let them cool:

Matzo Ball Production Zone


They actually keep well for a day or two in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container.  I also have been told that you can freeze them, but I’ve never tried it.  The traditional way to serve matzo balls in chicken soup (or vegetarian broth).  To serve, bring your soup to a boil, reduce the heat, and put the matzo balls into the soup to reheat for about 20 minutes.  Serve in bowls with one or two matzo balls in each bowl of soup.


Rugelach (Grandma’s Butter Cookies)

When I was young, there were two cookies that captured the essence of home and tradition. They were “rugelach” (sometimes called “der ahnderer” or the other ones) and “der geralte”, the rolled ones, which were damson plum jam, raisins and nuts rolled in a pastry dough and sliced.  The recipes were passed down from my Grandma Fredyl.  Fredyl, having grown up in the “old country”, did not have recipes; she cooked by eye and feel.  Family legend has it that my Aunt Gladys stood by her side as she cooked, and every time Grandma tossed in an ingredient, Gladys stuck out a measuring cup to measure the recipe.  Now I have the recipe on my mother Sylvia’s recipe cards, a memory of her since she’s gone.  They still evoke home.  Once I was visiting my sister when she lived in North Carolina, and we baked “Grandma cookies”. Her husband thought we were crazy, since we rarely saw one another, and we were spending our precious time together baking cookies.  We told him that we were “channeling Sylvia”.

For several years, I’ve been looking for a way to make low fat rugelach.  After all, the family recipe started with a quarter of a pound of butter.  I thought I found a recipe in a low fat baking book.  The recipe was a bit fussy, and after my experience with the lemon bars, I decided to calculate the fat content of my family recipe.  I was delighted to see that Grandma’s rugelach were quite reasonable in fat grams, so here is the recipe.


¼ pound of butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour + up to ¼ cup flour if needed (I used about a Tablespoon)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped small
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 350.  Sift 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour and baking powder into a medium bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until well-blended. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until flour is incorporated.   Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in enough of the ¼ cup of flour to firm up the dough.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Take dough out of refrigerator and cut about ¼ of the dough. To make rolling the dough easier, roll it out between 2 pieces of either parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap, with the lower sheet lightly sprinkled with flour. Use new sheets for each ¼ piece of dough.  This makes it much easier to get the cookies off the paper.  Roll the piece of dough into a rough square, about 1/8 inch thick.  Sprinkle with ¼ of the walnuts and a bit of the cinnamon and sugar (I have a shaker with mixed cinnamon and sugar, so I don’t usually measure them). Gently roll the rolling pin over the dough to set the filling.  Cut the dough into 2 inch squares.  Don’t worry about ragged edges.  I find that I have to shape each cookie by hand, and rough edges can be tucked in.  Put 2 raisins at each end of the squares.


Roll up each square, pushing the dough around the raisins to cover them up. Try to make them approximately the same size so they will bake evenly – I am not always successful in doing this.  Bend the cookies into little crescents.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

I was rather distressed the first time I made these, since my rugelach were rather bumpy and unshapely.  But then I remembered that the rugelach of my youth looked that way, too.  They are a homey cookie, not a glamour cookie – but oh the taste of them.  Here they are in their lumpy splendor on the cookie sheet waiting to be sprinkled and baked.


Sprinkle the unbaked rugelach with the cinnamon and sugar mix.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Do not let them get too brown.  Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then cool completely on rack (Try not to eat too many of the “broken ones). This makes 60 cookies at about 2 grams of fat/cookie.  These keep well, and freeze beautifully. We always had them in the freezer when I was growing up for a late night “nosh” or if unexpected company came.


NOTE: My mother didn’t toast the walnuts, but toasting brings out the flavor so that you can use fewer of them.

Now if I can only figure out how to make low fat geralte.

Luckshen Kugel (Noodle Pudding)

Luckshen Kugel is my ultimate comfort food – and these days who doesn’t need a little comfort.  A Kugel, according to Wikipedia, is “any one of a wide variety of traditional baked Jewish side dishes or desserts consisting of ground or processed vegetables, fruit, or other starches combined with a thickening agent (such as oil, egg, or flour).  Luckshen are egg noodles.

My mother’s luckshen kugel was delicious – and very high in fat.   Six or so eggs were mixed in, and I remember we kids competing to dot the top of the kugel with at least one stick of butter.  My mother usually made the kugel as a side dish to go with roasted chicken or a pot roast. I often just eat a big slab of it as a main dish, take it for lunch to be reheated (which it does well, but it doesn’t freeze well), and, I confess, I sometimes even eat it for breakfast.  It’s easy to make, and quite forgiving of substitutions.

Luckshen Kugel (Noodle Pudding)

Cooking spray
8 ounce package of yolk-free noodles (the wide kind, not the skinny ones)
3 firm apples, peeled, cored, quartered and cut crosswise into ½ inch slices
½ cup raisins (I use golden raisins)
2 cups of egg substitute
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 cake pan with cooking spray.

Cook noodles in a large pot according to package directions (don’t overcook).  Drain noodles and put them back in the pot (no sense making another dish dirty).  Mix apples and raisins into noodles.  Mix in egg substitute and then sugar and cinnamon.  Mix so that ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Pour noodles into prepared pan.  Cover with foil and bake for one hour.  Remove foil. Bake for an additional 20 minutes until top starts to brown slightly and liquid is completely absorbed.   This makes 8 large servings with about 1 gram of fat/serving.


Variation:  This recipe can be varied in many ways: more or less sugar or cinnamon, no apples, no raisins, or maybe add some other dried fruit.  Some people mix in a cup of cottage cheese.  At any synagogue potluck , there will be two or three kugels, each made from a family’s treasured recipe – and they’re all good.  The one above is my mom’s recipe without the fat, and to be honest, since it is a recipe from the “old country”, it never had measurements. I just mixed and baked.  I measured this time so I could give you a recipe.  Here’s one piece:

Buffalo Borscht

When I was growing up, borscht was this red soup made from beets that came in a bottle. You poured it in a bowl, plopped some sour cream in the middle, and ate. But recently I discovered that there is a whole different kind of borscht, which is a sweet and sour cabbage soup. It tastes like my mother’s stuffed cabbage, one of the favorite foods of my youth, which she only made for special occasions. Actually, I remember liking the cabbage and the sauce better than the filling.

To make borscht, you cook meat to make a broth, then add the other ingredients. The meat typically was flanken, a cut of beef (short ribs) that appears to consist of bone, gristle, and fat, Clearly, this had to be updated. So get out the soup pot.

Buffalo Borscht (Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup)

Cooking spray
1 1/2 pound buffalo roast, trimmed of all visible fat and cut in 1/2 to 1 inch pieces (I used bottom round)
1 large onion, coarsely diced
2 quarts of water
3 14 ounce cans of chopped tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large head of cabbage, cored and shredded

Spray the bottom of the soup pot with cooking spray. Brown the buffalo pieces, stirring occasionally. Be sure they get nice and brown to make a rich broth. When the meat is browned, add the 2 quarts of water. Stir so that all the browned bits on the bottom are mixed in the broth. Add the onion. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours, stirring once or twice. Stir in the tomatoes, lemon juice, brown sugar, and salt. Allow to simmer while you shred the cabbage. I cut the cabbage in eighths lengthwise, and then cut it in half inch slices across. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings to your own sense of sweet and sourness. You’ll probably have to adjust it again after the cabbage cooks. Add the cabbage and stir well. Simmer for another 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings (lemon juice, brown sugar, and salt) at the end of the cooking. I usually put soup in the refrigerator overnight to remove the fat, but when I did, there was absolutely no fat on the soup surface. It is hard to estimate the number of servings for this soup – it makes a lot. I estimate a 2 cup serving to be 2 grams of fat. Serve hot (it reheats very well) And yes, you can plop a dollop of fat free sour cream on it.

Variation: Some people add diced carrots, celery, or even beets to this.  I don’t. I like my cabbage straight up.

Apple-Honey Fruit Pizza

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews acknowledge their weaknesses, ask forgiveness, and vow to do better this year. Traditionally, people fast from sundown the night before to sundown on Yom Kippur day, and end the day with a break-the-fast feast.  Besides the feast, there are several things I love about this holiday:

  • You don’t just ask for forgiveness for sins against G-d, which you are granted, but for your transgressions against others, asking for them to forgive you also;
  • You read through a long list of sometimes humorous sins you might have committed, including being a zealot for bad causes (my favorite);
  • You ask to be forgiven for vows you have broken this past year, and, by the way, if you make vows this year and try as hard as you can and can’t fulfill them, then please forgive them too, in advance (I have a lawyer friend who says this is his favorite.);
  • You are asked not why you haven’t been as great as Moses, but why you haven’t been true to the best in yourself.

And now for the feast.  Our congregation has a potluck, and they assign either sweets or salads and side dishes by last name in the alphabet.  I got desserts, and decided to make a fruit pizza with honey and apples, traditional foods for this holiday. Remember the Wow factor of fruit pizza. (I am sure that food vanity, as well as food lust, is one of my weaknesses.) I know I said earlier that you probably couldn’t use hard fruit like apples on a fruit pizza, but I hadn’t thought of cooked apples – a revelation.

Apple-Honey Fruit Pizza

Cookie dough crust

I made the cookie dough crust the same way as before, with two exceptions: I left out the almond extract, and instead, when I mixed the dry ingredients, (flour, etc.,) I added 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg.  This made a nice, autumn-tasting cookie crust.

I also tried a new technique.  I cut a big circle of parchment paper and sprayed the bottom of the pan with cooking spray to hold it down.  Then I sprayed the top of the parchment paper with cooking spray before I put down the crust.  This solved a big problem for me, which is that my pizza pans are old and reprehensible looking, and must be covered with aluminum foil.  But the cookie crust always stuck to the aluminum foil when you cut up the fruit pizza.  This way, the crust lifted fight off the parchment and cooled on a rack.  I could freshly cover the pizza pan with foil to make it publicly acceptable, and plunk the crust on it to assemble.  Parchment paper is my friend.

Cream cheese layer:  I made this the same way as usual.

Apple-honey topping

Apples, peeled and cored
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup of honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Use firm apples that won’t turn to mush when you cook them.  I used Jonagold, but there are lots of good cooking apples this time of year. I needed 6 apples.  It’s going to depend on the size of your apples.  I would cook extra (you can always eat them).  Cut the apples lengthwise in about 1/2 inch wide slices. I cut mine into quarters and then each quarter into 5-6 pieces. Again, this depends on the size of your apples.  Put the apples in a large pan with the water and sugar.  Cover and cook over a low heat until they are tender, stirring gently occasionally so they cook evenly.  Watch them carefully. You don’t want them to turn into apple mush – you want them in distinct pieces.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the apples from the pan and spread on a flat surface (like a cookie sheet) to cool.

To make the honey glaze, heat the honey and cinnamon in a small bowl, stirring to incorporate the cinnamon (I didn’t stir it in well enough, and had to remove a couple of globs of cinnamon, which you can see in the photo.)  I heated the honey in the microwave. Allow to cool slightly.

Assembly: The fruit pizza can be assembled a couple of hours before you serve it, but it doesn’t hold for a long time, because the crust will get soggy. To assemble, spread the cream cheese topping over the cooled cookie crust. Gently place the apple slices in concentric rings on top of the filling.  Be careful not to squish the apples when you are handling them.  Once the apples are in place, gently spoon the honey-cinnamon glaze over the fruit pizza. Refrigerate the pizza, uncovered, for 20 minutes to allow the glaze to set. This is especially important if you are going to wrap it to take somewhere. Slice with a pizza cutter or a sharp knife. 12 servings with 6 grams of fat/serving, or 16 servings at 4.4 grams of fat/serving.

In this next year, may you be true to the best in yourself.

Brandied Honey Cake

Tonight begins Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of the Days of Awe, when the Book of Life is opened and your fate for the new year is written down. Between Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur, about ten days hence, one thinks about the past year, vows made and broken, and how one has lived one’s life. These days allow a person to contemplate how they can live a better life in the coming year.

During this season, it is traditional to serve food containing honey, with the hope that the new year will be sweet. Honey cake, served after the evening services, is traditional, and goes well with tea or coffee at any time.

Brandied Honey Cake

1 3/4 cups of honey
1 cup of strong coffee
3 Tablespoons of brandy, divided
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 chopped raisins
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
4 large eggs
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ounce chopped almonds (optional)

Bring honey and coffee to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Remove from heat and cool completely. Stir in 2 tablespoons of brandy.

Preheat oven to 300 F. Spray a 10 inch tube pan with cooking spray. HINT: I cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of my tube pan. I sprayed the pan, and then sprayed the parchment paper after I used it to line the pan. This makes it a lot easier to get the cake out of the pan.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves ginger, and nutmeg into a medium bowl. Add raisins and lemon zest. Whisk together. Beat eggs lightly in the large bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed. Add honey mixture, sugar, and oil. Beat until smooth and well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until center springs back when lightly pressed with a finger and top of cake is golden. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. While the cake is still warm, poke the top all over with a thin skewer, and drizzle the remaining tablespoon of brandy over it. Loosen the cake around the edges with a sharp knife and remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove parchment paper from bottom of cake. If you are using the almonds, brush the top of the cake lightly with honey and sprinkle the almonds over it. With almonds, this makes 18 servings, at about 4 grams of fat/serving.

Variation: The recipe I got this from called for chopping the almonds and adding them to the cake at the point where you add the raisins. I found that the bits of almond gave the cake a distressing texture, rather like sand in the cake – but maybe you will like that technique better than I did.

TRUE CONFESSION: You may wonder why there is no picture of a glorious tall and beautiful tube cake, strewn with almonds. Instead, there are some fetching slices. That is because about an hour after I took the cake from the oven, it looked like this:

The entire center had collapsed, because IT WASN’T COOKED. I was working from home, baking between wrestling spreadsheets. Somehow, the timer got turned off, which I realized when I went into the kitchen to check on things. I looked at the cake and it needed more cooking, so I gave it 20 minutes more. By then, it was tall and beautiful, and it sprang back when I poked it. So I took it out of the oven. But it lied. It was not cooked. It sprang back falsely. So, in desperation, once it cooled, I cut out the raw middle, and made narrow slices of the cooked outer rim.

May you be written down for a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year.


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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