Middle East Take on Quinoa Salad and Stuffed Mini Peppers

Middle Eastern Quinoa Salad

Middle Eastern Quinoa Salad

While the debate about Quinoa’s knitniyot status continues to rage on, I would like to encourage you all to make the most of this wonderful source of protein, which is an edible seed that is related to vegetables such as beets and spinach, because next year it may be off the table for Ashkenazim.

Here’s a really great way to use quinoa in a salad and make it very Mediterranean in flavor. Tabbouleh salad is very popular round these parts. Personally, I’m not a big fan of bulgar, so I don’t make this. By substituting quinoa for bulgar, not only do you make this salad kosher for Pesach, you also, in my opinion, make it a lot tastier.

After making this salad, I then threw some mini red peppers into the oven to roast, and stuffed them with the salad as a really pretty and delicious starter. Israeli supermarkets and green grocers have been flooded lately with these wonderful mini red peppers, which are sweet and crunchy, and great to snack on. I took some of the bigger ones to roast and stuff, and it’s a hit. It is a little finicky, but work around the table was that it’s worth it.

MIDDLE EASTERN QUINOA SALAD

Roasted mini peppers stuffed with quinoa salad

Roasted mini peppers stuffed with quinoa salad

Ingredients

1 cup raw quinoa

½ red onion very finely chopped

2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes very finely chopped

2 cloves garlic crushed

1 cup of chopped fresh parsley

½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander (optional)

Juice of half a lemon

About ¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

How to do it

1. Preparing the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa in a strainer under running cold water for about 2 minutes. Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan, and add the strained quinoa, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to the boil, and turn down the heat to low. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the water has cooked away (I always check after it’s been cooking for about 15 minutes to make sure it doesn’t overcook.) Turn off the heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Allow to cool completely.

2. Soak the chopped onion in a bowl of cold water for a minute or two – this will eliminate the very pungent flavor and mellow the onion a bit. Strain.

3. Place the cooled quinoa into a medium-sized bowl and add the vegetables and herbs. Mix through.

4. Dress with the lemon, oil, salt and pepper, and mix. Taste and add more of any of the dressing ingredients to taste.

Serves about 6.

Mini Peppers

Mini Peppers

FOR STUFFED MINI PEPPERS

Ingredients

20-24 large mini red peppers

About one third of the salad

How to do it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Slit the peppers from top to bottom

Slit the peppers from top to bottom

2. Wash and dry the peppers, do not remove the stalks. Using a small serrated knife, cut a slit down the length of the pepper leaving just a few millimeters at the top and at the bottom.

3. Cover a baking tray with baking paper and grease it with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the peppers on the baking tray and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Then turn the peppers over and roast for another 10 minutes or until the peppers start taking on dark brown patches. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Roasted mini peppers

Roasted mini peppers

4. Using a very small teaspoon, stuff some of the quinoa mixture into each pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Serves about 4.

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Delicious and Easy Pesach Amond Cookies

Almond Cookies

Almond Cookies

One of my favorite ways to find new Pesach recipes is to discover them hidden in the pages of regular recipes books. Every now and again, you will stumble on a flourless confectionery that is perfectly kosher for Pesach without meaning to be.

Just last week, a new cake recipe book I’d ordered online arrived (just in time for Pesach!). As I was flipping through the pages, I came across a recipe for Swiss cookies made with ground almonds that are 100% KFP, have no kitniyot and are parev – the Ashkenazi Pesach trifecta! But, turns out the recipe was useless, but I liked the concept. So after a bit of experimentation, I “made it my own” and now I have a wonderful recipe for the most delicious cookies.

The best thing about these cookies is that they don’t have that “pesach” taste that comes from the KFP cake flour or potato flour. You also can make these all year round, and no-one will complain.

I made mine dipped in chocolate – they are really delicious with this extra layer of flavor. You can just as easily make them without and keep it really simple.

As we start the one-week countdown to seder, this is one recipe you can make ahead of time and keep them in an airtight container ready for serving as an after dinner treat.

ALMOND COOKIES DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE FOR PESACH (No kitniyot)

Ingredients

225 g (8 oz / 2 cups) ground almonds (Note: If you’re in Israel, your local spice store will grind almonds for you on the spot.)

450 g (16 oz / 2 cups) caster sugar (Note: In Israel you can get Sugat’s “Sucar Dakdak” in any supermarket today)

2 egg whites (unwhisked)

About 100 g (3 oz) flaked almonds

150 g (5 oz) parev dark chocolate for dipping

How to do it

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Chocolate Lined Cookie

1. Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F)

Chocolate Dipped Cookie

Chocolate Dipped Cookie

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ground almonds and the sugar. Add the egg whites one at a time, mixing them in until the mixture forms a dough-like ball (I use my hands to bring all the dry ingredients together)

3. Line baking trays with baking paper and grease the baking paper lightly.

4. Pour the almond flakes onto a flat surface – a plate or clean counter top. With dampened hands, form balls with about 1 teaspoon of the dough. Flatten the dough slightly into the flaked almonds, coating each ball of dough on both sides. (If the almonds don’t stick, then wet your hands again and rub them over the dough ball). Place on the baking tray with about 5 cm/2 inches between each ball.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or just until the cookies are just starting to get golden brown. You’ll want to keep an eye on the cookies as they are quite delicate and can easily become too brown. Remove and allow to cool completely before you dip them in chocolate.

6. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Dip each cooking half-way into the chocolate. I tip the pot with the chocolate at an angle so that the chocolate pools on one side and it’s easier to dip.  If you want to drizzle lines of chocolate over the cookies, place the cookie on some baking paper, and using a spoon of chocolate, carefully drizzle lines of chocolate in both direction over the cookie.

7. Place the cookies on baking paper until the chocolate has completely set.

Makes about 36 cookies.

Jewish Soul Food – Stuffed Matza Balls

Stuffed matza balls in chicken soup

Stuffed matza balls in chicken soup

Back in the days of the shtetl, Lithuanian cooks would make their kneidlach (matza balls) stuffed with pieces of fried chicken fat in the center – oy vey! The name they gave this dish was kneidlach with “neshoma,” or matza balls with soul. There’s something touching about this name, which symbolizes that even in the simplest things in life we can add a spark of spirituality. The seder meal is so filled with meaning and symbolism that it’s nice to be able to add another layer of meaning to the food we eat on that night.

There are many ways to make these kneidlach. I have amalgamated a few recipes and methods to come up with what I think works well. And mine have no fried chicken fat in them!

I kept the filling flavors relatively simple in keeping with the Ashkenazi kitchen. You can, of course, add whatever spices you enjoy, and even add a little chili powder or cayenne pepper for a little zing. Some recipes call for baking the kneidlach in the oven after you’ve boiled them. I am not sure what the logic is if you’re going to be serving them in the soup, as they will get wet again. This is also an unnecessary step that adds time to your already packed pre-seder cooking schedule.

For me, the most important part of making these is getting the filling in the freezer before you stuff the kneidlach. I give credit to Israeli chef Haim Cohen for this excellent technique, which he uses in his kube soup recipe (not Kosher for Pesach). By making small balls of filling and freezing them, you make the stuffing process so much easier, and you won’t have to fiddle with bits of filling that fall all over the place and make it hard to seal the balls properly. It’s an extra step, but pays off in the end. You can also make the stuffing a few days in advance.

STUFFED MATZA BALLS (KNEIDLACH WITH NESHOMA)

Ingredients 

Filling

1-2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1 small onion very finely chopped

1 small stalk of celery very finely chopped

1 clove of garlic crushed

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

90-100 g (3 oz) ground beef (for vegetarian, you can use finely chopped mushrooms – saute them separately and drain well before adding to the rest of the ingredients)

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons potato flour

¼ cup water

Matza Balls 

4 large eggs

4 tablespoons margarine

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon baking powder (if you can find kosher for Pesach baking powder you can make it without)

Salt and pepper

2/3 cups boiling water

About 1 cup of matza meal

How to do it

1. In a small pan, heat the oil. Add the chopped celery and onion and saute until very soft. Add the garlic and parsley and stir until the garlic has just cooked (about 30 seconds).

2. Add the ground beef and saute until it’s all cooked (no pink), making sure to separate the bits of beef so no large chunks form. (Or add the sauteed, well-drained mushrooms for vegetarian)

3. Add the seasoning and stir till combined.

4. Add the tomato paste,  potato flour and the water and mix. Simmer until the mixture is no longer watery (this won’t take very long – about 2 minutes). Allow to cool completely.

5. On a small baking tray or any pan that can go into the freezer, lay out some baking paper. Form small balls of the filling that are just under one teaspoon each. Place them on the tray and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours or overnight. Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a sealed container and keep them in the freezer for a few days.

Making the Kneidlach

1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg well with a whisk. Add the margarine and beat it in as well as you can (it will stay lumpy but try to separate it as much as possible at this stage)

Flatten some kneidle mixture into your hand using wet fingers

Flatten some kneidle mixture into your hand using wet fingers

2. Add the boiling water and whisk till the margarine has melted. Add the seasoning and baking powder.

3. Slowly add the matza meal, stirring the mixture with a spoon. You need to do this slowly and in stages, as the matza meal hardens the egg mixture quite quickly and you don’t want your mixture to get hard. Once the mixture starts to be less runny, start testing the consistency by dropping spoonfuls into the bowl. As soon as it stops being runny and falls from the spoon in a blob, then you are done. You will always use a slightly different quantity of matza meal because the sizes of the eggs vary.

Place one ball of filling in the middle of the kneidle mixture

Place one ball of filling in the middle of the kneidle mixture

4. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or until the mixture is well set. You can leave this overnight as well.

Stuffing the kneidlach

1. In a medium-large pot, bring about 4-5 liters of water and add a tablespoon of chicken soup powder to a rolling boil.

2. Remove the filling balls from the freezer; take the kneidle mixture out of the fridge and prepare a bowl of water for dipping your hands.

Pinch the kneidle mixture around the filling with wet hands, sealing the seams well

Pinch the kneidle mixture around the filling with wet hands, sealing the seams well

3. Take about 1½ tablespoons of kneidle mixture in your wet hands (about the size of a small golf ball) and flatten it a little until it’s about 1 cm (½ inch). Take a filling ball and place it in the middle, then work the kneidle mixture up around the filling, making sure not to make the kneidle too thin. If you can’t get it all around the filling, then add a little bit of extra kneidle mixture to close the ball. With wet hands, smooth the kneidle so that you make a ball shape. Carefully place into the boiling water. Keep going until you’ve used up all your kneidle mixture.

Ready for the pot

Ready for the pot

4. Once all the balls are in the pot, cover, make sure the water comes to the boil. Then reduce the flame and simmer, cooking for 25-minutes.

5. Serve the kneidlach in bowls of chicken soup.

Makes about 18 balls.

And coming early this year….it’s Pesach!

Seder Table

Less than a year will have passed since last Pesach before we’ll be sitting down to our seders for 5773. It’s time to start planning menus and meals, and head to the supermarkets and delis to see what’s available for this year.

I am re-posting all my Pesach recipes from last year. When it comes to cooking for Pesach, I believe that you go with what works for you. My family certainly waits for their Pesach favorites, which I love to cook. I will be adding a few new recipes in the next couple of weeks as well.

Here’s the list of recipes I have for Pesach, and you can also find them on the “Passover” tab on my home page.

Chicken Soup and Matza Balls

Chicken Soup and Matza Balls

Chicken soup and kneidlach/matza balls – No seder is complete without this Ashkenazi classic…

My family’s tzimmes – Another tradition in my family is this tzimmes, made with kneidel mixture in the middle of a sweet carrot and sweet potato mix.

Flaumen (Potato and Prune) Tzimmes – A really delicious side dish for the seder table and throughout Pesach.

 

Brisket with potatoes and carrots

Brisket with potatoes and carrots

Brisket –  Because how can you have a Seder without brisket (or at least that’s the rule in my house).

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce for Pesach – A great dish to put on your Seder table for the kids who don’t like brisket! It’s really similar to my regular recipe, but made without bread crumbs, and using matza meal instead.

 

Kosher for Pesach Sticky Asian Chicken

Kosher for Pesach Sticky Asian Chicken

Sweet Asian Chicken Pieces (kitniyot) – With sweet chili sauce available as KFR (kitnoyot), you can make this great recipe for crispy chicken in a sweet Asian sauce that you will want to make all year round.

Ratatouille – The perfect side dish for Pesach – ratatouille has only KFP ingredients, is parev, tastes good and looks really colorful.

Roast Potatoes Perfect for Pesach – An easy and basic recipe for roast potatoes that will make everyone forget it’s Pesach.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage for Pesach – This side dish is the perfect accompaniment to anything Ashkenazi especially your brisket.

Spinach Gnocchi – This is a really fun KFP gnocchi dish that really works and tastes good. It’s great for a mid-week meal when you’re done with Seder leftovers and don’t have room for another morsel of brisket!

Kosher for Pesach Enchiladas– Kitniyot Only – Here’s a fun dairy, kitniyot recipe. I am sure that Mexicans would scoff at the bastardization of this wonderful dish, but when it comes to Pesach, anything that can be made kosher is fair game.

Quiche for Pesach– Using an alternative crust that is very delicious, but does require more work than a butter crust.

 

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Salad in a Citrus Dressing

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Salad in a Citrus Dressing

Quinoa Salad – This is the recipe I came up with one Pesach when I had last minute vegetarian guests. It’s a great dish and makes a really nice salad that’s full of flavor. There is some disagreement as to whether quinoa is kitniyot or not. OUKosher says, “since quinoa, which has only recently been introduced to the Northern Hemisphere from its native South America, was never considered kitniot, it remains permitted on Pesach even though logically it should be included in the minhag…” But please read the full article for all the info and make your own choice.

Easy Roasted Red Onion and Lettuce Salad– When you’ve been toiling all day in the kitchen making all that seder food, the last thing you want to do is slave over a salad. How about this easy stand-by? You can roast the onions in advance, and throw it all together in minutes. You will want to double this recipe if you’re having a big crowd.

 

New Pesach Slaw

New Pesach Slaw

New Pesach Slaw (can contain kitniyot) This is a colorful salad that will look beautiful on your table, even if it doesn’t have the Asian flavors that give it a kick in the rest of the year. I have posted a recipe for making your own KFP peanut butter (for kitniyot eaters).

Carrot Soup – One of my favorite everyday soups that’s also KFP and can be made parev, so how can you lose by adding this to your own KFP repertoire?

Chocolate Vanilla Cream Cake – This is a regular recipe that just happens to also be KFP! This is a dairy cake, so you won’t want to serve it at your Seder (unless you’re doing a vegetarian Seder, in which case, I highly recommend this as a great dessert). But as a wonderful treat, this cake’s a winner, especially since it’s really simple to make.

Coconut Mounds – Pesach isn’t Pesach without coconut cookies.When I first made this recipe, I was sure it would be disastrous because it just seemed way too easy. I was wrong. They are delicious and crazy easy, so do make them with your kids.

Apple Squares for Pesach – This is a regular on my Seder dessert table. It’s easy to make, tastes good and isn’t overly sweet. And of course, it’s parev, so works on many levels. There’s nothing like fruit to cover the taste of the kosher for Pesach “flours”!

Chocolate Roll For Pesach – Here’s a fun dessert that’s versatile, tastes good and looks good. Have fun with fillings of your choice. I offer two options, but you can get creative and add whatever you and your family like.

Hummus Cake for Pesach

Hummus Cake for Pesach

Chocolate Truffle Cake – This is a most incredible cake, which I adapted from the hametz version with relative ease. For chocolate lovers, this cake is a dream. It’s really rich so can serve a lot of eaters, and because it’s parev, it’s a great Seder dessert option. You can also make this ahead of time and freeze it.

Hummus Chocolate Cake (kitniyot) – This simple to make recipe turns out a delicious chocolate cake that tastes like brownies and has no trace of garbanzo beans.

 

Upside-Down Lemon Meringue Cake

Upside-Down Lemon Meringue Cake

Upside-Down Lemon Meringue Cake for Pesach– The first time I made this I was so excited because I saw that it could also work for Pesach with no adaptations and it can be made parev. This is one of my favorite desserts for any time of year, so being able to serve in at a Seder table is a huge bonus. Watch your guests gasp with delight when you bring this onto the table. It will give them the strength to make it to Chad Gadyah with ease.

Home Made Peanut Butter for Pesach –  In my house, peanut butter is a staple, and no chag is going to force us to give up on it. Here’s a quick and very easy way to make your own peanut butter for Pesach. Because it’s a healthy version, with no additives, you may even want to make it during the year…

KFP Peanut Butter

KFP Peanut Butter