Archive for April, 2011

Kale-Artichoke Casserole

I’ve tried a lot of different ways to make Matzoh palatable. Nutella becomes bland in its presence. A cookie dough dip was too rich and almost sour from the cream cheese. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting, but it was nothing like cookie dough. Straight cream cheese with some smoked salmon worked out nicely, and thick slabs of cheddar were likewise a hit this year. So apparently I enjoy my matzoh more with savory toppings than sweet. Why not crumble it into a cheesy vegetable casserole?

I had half a pound of kale and I always have bags of frozen artichoke hearts. However, I highly recommend experimenting here. Eggplant slices, onion, asparagus, and pumpkin all seem like good candidates to add in.


1/2 pound kale (or spinach or mustard greens)

1 eight-ounce bag of frozen artichoke hearts, rinsed and thawed

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 T olive oil

2 sheets matzoh. I can’t even call them crackers. crackers aren’t this huge.

1/4 pound havarti, grated


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the kale into bite-sized pieces and discard the ribs. Heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet or wok. Add the garlic, then toss the kale in it to coat.

Once the smell of frying kale hits you, cover the pan and let it cook about 5 minutes.

Mix the kale with the artichoke hearts and spread them in a layer in a small casserole dish.

Crush the matzoh using your favorite crushing method. I put the sheets in a Ziploc bag and hit them with my rolling pin (one of the many advantages of having a solid Italian rolling pin is the lack of fussy handles. It’s essentially a very smooth club.) Sprinkle the matzoh crumbs over the veggies.

And sprinkle the cheese over the matzoh.  Havarti is very sticky, so I probably should have mixed it with the matzoh crumbs first. As it was, I got a lovely cheese layer on top but no cheese penetrated throughout the casserole. Not bad, but could have been better.

Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden and the smell is driving you mad with hunger.

It is light. It is gorgeous. It is filling yet mostly healthful. delightful little fronds of kale peek up through the cheese and crisp like chips when you bite them. Soft, buttery artichoke hearts take the bite out of the cheese. And throughout is the crunch of matzoh. This is truly the only dish I would say is improved by those horrible, flavorless crackers. Of course, I’ll have to test this out with some butter crackers now that Passover has ended. For the sake of Science.


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The Half-Baked Meringue

I am a bit of a meringue freak. I don’t make it often, though, for a variety of reasons. First of all, meringues use plenty of egg white, but not the yolks. If “m making meringue, I’m not going to do it by halves and just use two or three eggs. No sir. I used a whole dozen. Now there are twelve yolks sitting in my fridge waiting for Passover to end so that they can become lime pie. Do you see now why I don’t do this more often? It’s dangerous!

But meringue can be had so many ways. Soft and fluffy over a pie, crisp and crunch in a small cookie to dip in hot chocolate or slater with peanut butter, and of course, half-baked. A half-baked meringue is crispy on the outside, but a delicate sponge inside. The texture is almost that of an angel food cake with a crust. And it is delightful.

Ingredients (makes three monster sized half baked meringues, or two monsters plus two littler ones, or a lot of eensy little ones.)

vinegar to wipe down bowl*

12 egg whites

2 3/4 cups sugar

pinch of salt from a very possessive salt owl

*wiping down the bowl with vinegar is a bit of a superstition of mine. If your bowl is not 100% dry or has a smidge of oil in it, the world will not end, nor will your egg foam. I do it because my grandmother used to, and because I kind of like the smell of vinegar. I’m weird like that.


Break and separate a lot of eggs. Incidentally, this:

is why you shouldn’t be too impressed with the architectural skills of honeybees. When tightly packed circles (or bees) press on each other, the circles become hexagons all on their own. It’s just physics. Now stop distracting me and break some more eggs!

That is a lot of yolks. Cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge. I’ll teach you how to make lime pie in a few days.

The egg whites need a  nice big bowl, as they are about to start taking up a lot more volume. Toss in a pinch of salt and start whipping.

Then whip some more.

Then add the sugar in a slow stream and whip until the whole mass is thick and fluffy and the surface holds a certain amount of definition. Remember, overwhipping is just as disastrous as underwhipping, and much harder to fix!

I honestly just scooped with a 1-cup measuring cup onto a sheet of parchment paper. I drew circles on the paper first, then flipped it over, to get the bobs at least round. You could get all kinds of fancy with piping tips, but I honestly think it’s more fun to eat a blob. Plus I didn’t want to wash the fiddly little pastry nozzles.

Toss them in the oven at 250F for an hour and a half.  When you pull them out, they’ll have a delightful eggshell color and sound hollow if you tap on them gently. Tap hard, and they will explode.

Sometimes a bit of egg ends up not quite whipped enough and leaks out a bit at the bottom. That bit is fun, too–it tastes like hard candy!

If you want them crisp all the way through, leave them in the oven for a full two and a half hours, then turn the oven off but don’t remove the meringues until they’re cool. This is less fun because you have to wait like three hours for dessert, and also it bears no resemblance to angel food cake. I didn’t actually check the internal temperature of the half baked ones, so theoretically I suppose the presence of Salmonella is possible. Of course, the small carnivores probably carry Toxoplasmosis on their disgusting paws, and the even smaller carnivores,

those girls, definitely carry Salmonella, but that doesn’t stop me letting them clamber on me when they feel like it. It takes a really large and impressive salmonella culture to infect a healthy person, and and hour and a half at 250F should probably kill any bacterial cells. Still, if you don’t want to risk it, crisp them all the way through. Or, you know, stop eating eggs.

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Brisket brisket brisket brisket yum! Sorry about that. It’s just that I’ve never made brisket before. My mother-in-law does (and she makes a mean one, too. Way better than mine turned out. Grr.)

Anyway. I always worried that if I made brisket it would come out tough or bland, so while I order it often in restaurants and stare longingly at it in the butcher’s case, I’d never tried to make it myself.

Then I saw this beautiful cut behind the counter for less than $5 a pound. How could I say no?

Could you? This four-and-a-half pound behemoth cost me just over fifteen dollars and made a great middle-of-Passover meal. With a side of broccoli and roasted red potatoes, I almost didn’t miss the bread.


Ingredients (serves four with leftovers)

3 pounds brisket

2 T olive oil

salt and spices to taste (I used cayenne)

1 pound onion*

1/2 pound carrots

1/2 pound celery

6-8 cloves garlic

3 T brown sugar

1 cup red wine

2 cups beef stock

bay leaves


Most briskets are bigger than three pounds. Mine was four and a half, and some of the others at the butcher weighed in at a whopping eight pounds. So you’ll want to cut it down to three. Three pounds is also the most that comfortably fits in a 9×13 pan, and that’s what I used to cook this. Once you’ve cut it down to size, trim the surface fat by running a knife under the fat layer parallel to the skin.

Heat the oven to 300°F

It really doesn’t need the fat to be tender, I promise.  Salt and season the meat generously, then heat the oil in your biggest frying pan.

And curse up a storm when this happens.

Thanks to my teflon fingers (seriously, I grab things right out of 400°F ovens all the time, and only rarely end up with eensy little blisters on my fingers. Don’t you try it, though.), I managed to brown it pretty well. Then you’ll want to arrange your celery and carrot in a layer on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Plop the brisket on top of them, and toss the garlic cloves in.

Look at all that beautiful caramelized onion. Unfortunately, Mr. B smelled it from across the apartment and walked around lighting incense making loud hacking and gagging noises until I threw all that lovely onion away. Oh well. He’s allowed to be picky about one thing; goodness knows I’m picky, too.

Pour the beef stock and wine in around the brisket, dust the top of the meat with brown sugar, and float a bay leaf or two in the pan.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for two hours. Pull it out, flip the meat, and cover tightly again and bake for another two hours. That’s four hours of covered baking.

In the end, you have a meltingly tender piece of meat that has absorbed every flavor you cook it with rather nicely. Were it not Passover I would have used a bottle of beer in place of the wine, and I think tomato would have been amazing, so those of you who are not allergic may want to throw in a can of crushed whole tomatoes and see how that turns out. And hey, have some onions for me.

I had some of the leftovers today for lunch, despite my hate- and fear-filled relationship with the microwave at work. (There was an incident involving some nukerwave popcorn. The fire department was called.) Even the soft cooked carrots reheated nicely, and I think for a first try it came out rather well.

Next time, I will use beer. And maybe some ketchup. And all of my dignity, it will be gone.

I’m okay with that.

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Roasted Red Potatoes

Potatoes are probably my all-time favorite food. I like them mashed, fried, baked, twice-baked, souffléd, chipped, hash browned, latked, and gratined. I use them to make gnocchi, pierogis, omelettes, and even slice them into my stir fry. If you don’t like potatoes, I really don’t know what we have to talk about. Poatoes are brilliant. And sometimes poisonous, but that’s all right.

These particular potatoes are chopped and roasted in duck or chicken fat, leaving them crunchy and moist at the same time. I’m making them again tomorrow to serve with smoked brisket and brocolli, but I have more than once decided that these lovely things are the star of the meal all by themselves. This tends to make Mr. B sad. See, while I can happily eat meat only once or twice a week, he doesn’t understand the concept of a dinner without it. It took him years to stop asking “where’s the entree?” when I served a vegetarian pasta dish. I guess growing up on a ranch will do that to a man. At any rate, roasted potatoes!

Ingredients (serves two. Two as a side, two as a main dish. If you double it, be warned: it may still serve two. They are so good you’ll keep coming back for more.) 1 pound red potatoes

4 cloves garlic (or more, if you really like garlic.)

3 T schmaltz

2 sprigs rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste. Cayenne is good, too. Decide what spices will best complement your meal, and run with it.

Directions Preheat the oven to 400°F. Chop potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Cut garlic in half and remove the germ. Or not, if you like the germ. I think it has a weird texture.  Spread the cubed potatoes and garlic in an 8×8″ pan, and dot the top with schmaltz. (That’s rendered poultry fat, guys. I use duck.) Scatter rosemary leaves over all this, season liberally, and pop the whole thing in the oven.

After 40-45 minutes,  these beauties will be ready to eat. try not to burn your tongue on them–the look and smell so good you’ll want to pop them in your mouth like candy, straight out of the pan, but that hurts. Er–not that I’d know from experience.

Serve with meat and veg of your choice.

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Miso Eggplant

If I can say one thing for Passover, it’s that I end up trying a bunch of new recipes to avoid eating the concrete Hell known as matzoh. Tonight it was Japanese food, thanks to a picture in Kimiko Barber’s The Japanese Kitchen. I’ve been wanting the miso eggplant in there for weeks. And tonight, finally, with some teriyaki chicken* (just in case we didn’t like the new eggplant), it came to be.

I don’t know why we waited so long. The salty miso topping, the crisp eggplant skin, the creamy eggplant flesh–it’s all so good! If you don’t use miso paste, or don’t know what it is, get ye to an Asian market and pick up a container. It’s very cheap, it lasts for months, and I can’t think of a Japanese dish it doesn’t add to. For vegetarians, it adds that umami flavor that so few non-meats can provide.

Miso Eggplant (serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side) recipe adapted from The Japanese Kitchen by Kimiko Barber

2 Japanese eggplants

4 T miso paste

2 egg yolks

3 T mirin

2 T honey (or sugar, if you like)

Oil, for frying


Combine miso paste, yolks, mirin, and honey in a bowl and stir until smooth and creamy.  Turn the oven on to broil, you’ll be needing it in about ten minutes.

Chop the eggplants into 1 inch slices, discarding the ends.

Heat oil in a deep pan or wok and fry the eggplant slices for 3-5 minutes.

Drain the fried eggplant on paper towels, then arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a spoon to dribble the miso mix on top of the slices in little piles.

Bake under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven just as the  miso mixture begins to blacken in spots.

Serve with teriyaki chicken and steamed green vegetables of some kind. I forgot to cook greens, and it made me sad. Everything else, though, was brilliant.

*Okay, some Jews don’t eat soy sauce, therefore teriyaki, during Passover. I agree that it makes sense to avoid most soy sauce, as it contains wheat. I found gluten-free, wheat-free soy sauce, and that’s what I used. Some Jews still wouldn’t eat it during Passover. They’re worried about kitniyot, which is a group of foods not forbidden for Passover in the Torah, but rabbinically forbidden later, presumably because some rabbi decided his congregation was full of morons who couldn’t tell wheat from corn or soy or even peas. This is, incidentally, the same reason chicken is considered fleishik by so many Jews; because of the possibility that they might not be able to tell the difference between poultry and beef. As I am fully capable of telling my foods apart, I follow the proscriptions laid out in the Torah, not the ones that appear to be made up later. For a longer, better elucidated explanation, check here.

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Lamb Shanks with Carrots and Polenta

Apparently, Mr. B does not trust me. Apparently, he thinks I am an evil ogress just waiting to rain destruction down upon the earth. Apparently, when he opened the freezer this morning, he thought I had resorted, for no discernible reason, to cannibalism.

I ask you, does this look anything like a human shin bone?

If you said yes, I challenge you: Why would you know that?

In fairness to my paranoid husband, I may have been reading a few things that worried him. Starting with the account of the whaling ship Essex (crew turned cannibal, sadly, to avoid imaginary cannibals), followed by a book about the Franklin expedition (Owen Beattie thinks they probably turned cannibal), followed by Askenasy’s Cannibalism: From Sacrifice to Survival. And no, these are not the only books about cannibals that I own.

Still, I own even more books about deep sea biology, yet as far as I know no one has ever accused me of being a squid.

At any rate, those lovely meaty shins above did not come from a human, but from a delicious lamb. The best part about cooking these in foil, as recommended by the current issue of Fine Cooking,  is that Mr. B and I could have different flavors. I had honey, apricot, and lemon. He had barbecue.

Ingredients (Serves two. Easily doubled, halved, etc; one shank per person, veggies as desired.)

2 T olive oil

2 lamb shanks

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic

1 onion, chopped*

1 T kosher salt

2 sprigs rosemary

pepper and other spices as desired

For BBQ version

1/4 cup barbecue sauce

For fruity version

3 T lemon juice

2-3 T honey

8 dried apricots

*Mr. B won’t eat anything if an onion has even looked at it, so we didn’t have any. It was kind of a shame. I highly encourage the use of onions.



Heat oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a skillet and drop the shanks in to brown on all sides. Meanwhile, chop up your carrots and other vegetables and divide them into two piles, each on their own nice big square of aluminum foil.

When your shanks are browned, or you’re just bored of messing with them in a pan that is not cast iron, lay them over the vegetables. Season with salt and other spices.

Now for barbecue: just pour some barbecue sauce over the shank and wrap up the foil.

For the fruit and honey:  add the apricots around the base of the lamb, pour on the honey and lemon juice, and wrap it up as well.

Place both shanks on a cookie sheet and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The cookie sheet is to keep the inevitable leak of sauce from catching fire in the bottom of the oven. I’ve done it before. Trust me, you don’t want to clean up after that.

Serve with polenta* or roasted potatoes or just a pile of matzoh.

*I know some Jews don’t eat corn during Passover. Please don’t yell at me. I’m not making you eat it. If you are okay with corn during Passover, still remember that adding butter or parmesan makes it inappropriate to serve with lamb. If you’re not Jewish, by all means, wrap it in bacon and eat it with a pile of cheese.

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Passover Shopping

Well, Passover starts tomorrow, and boy have I been busy. Cleaning the apartment top to bottom, vacuuming the car, packing up my chametz, you know. All that.

I certainly didn’t spend most of Saturday down in Waxahachie eating corn on the cob and beef ribs with my bare hands, watching topless men combine weapons and fire.

That would be irresponsible.

Next time I don’t go to the renaissance fair, somebody come with me so I can have my picture taken with this guy? I just couldn’t ask Mr. B. I mean, I’m not completely cruel.

So that’s why only about half of my Passover shopping is done today. Mr B is picking up the rest tomorrow.

The first step is replacement food for all the wheat and leavening I had to dispose of. Matzoh isn’t exactly bread, but it has its own crunchy charm. Sort of. I like it with Nutella, peanut butter, bananas, hummus, chile, refried beans, any way but plain because plain it just turns to tasteless cement on the second chew.

Thanks to a local Jewish market and grill called Milk and Honey,  I have some almond cookies that smelled so good when I opened the box that I had to just hide them in the cabinet to keep from devouring them before the holiday.

And finally, I picked up a pair of meringues because, well, I love meringues. I’ll probably be making a meringue cake of some kind this week, but it won’t be so pretty as the ones from the store. I really need to learn to be patient.

Next, I went to get meat. If I can’t have pasta or bread, I turn into this insanely voracious carnivore. It’s really rather impressive. Also, even though I’ve been warned against it, I’ve chosen this week to read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. We’ll see how that goes.

First, there’s a delightful brisket. Four and a half pounds of meat for about fifteen dollars. I swear, I almost hugged my butcher, truly.

Lamb shanks, because they’re delicious. I know some people aren’t a fan of lamb, but I don’t think it’s “gamey” at all, and it comes out so tender and complements so many flavors well that I find it hard to object to. Still, everyone’s picky about something.

Finally, Beef short ribs. I can hardly wait to smoke these. So we have a lot of meaty goodness coming up this week.

For the rest of the groceries, we’re picking up a pile of fruits and vegetables, some tahini, lots of eggs and yogurt. The clerk at the grocery store is going to think we’re health nuts.

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