Vegan hot chocolate is not an oxymoron. It exists, and it’s delicious. Curious? Read my ramblings and find the recipe at my Oakland Cooking column on Examiner.com.
Archive for the 'eatme' Category
I have fond memories of eating matzah brei for breakfast of a Sunday morning during Passover. I’d wake up to the smell of browned butter and cinnamon, and wander into the kitchen.
My dad preferred the scrambled style of the traditional dish. He’d break several sheets of matzah into large pieces and soak them in water or milk, then mixing them with beaten eggs and stir-frying them in a large skillet. He’d sprinkle the crisp, golden matzah pieces with a little sugar and cinnamon, and serve them up to my brother and me. We would raid the refrigerator for all manner of toppings—cottage cheese, butter, cheddar cheese, American cheese, jam, chocolate syrup—and carry them, teetering, back to the table.
The adventure began when we sat down to eat. Cottage cheese and jam? Jam and butter? Cheddar and jam? Cottage cheese and chocolate syrup? The possibilities were endless and no combination was too weird. The matzah brei itself was a delight, a more rugged version of French toast we only ate once a year. I can still taste it, eggy, warm, buttery and bread-like, the sandy sweetness of cinnamon and sugar in my mouth.
savory matzah brei
1 1/2 cups matzah farfel
1-2 handfuls fresh parsley
1 stalk green garlic or spring onion
1 poblano pepper or other pepper
salt and pepper
cheddar cheese or any other cheese
- Pour the matzah farfel into a large bowl. Break the eggs into the bowl and mix with a fork, beating the eggs slightly and tossing to coat the matzah farfel.
- Melt some butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Coarsely chop the parsley and toss into the bowl.
- Finely chop the green garlic or spring onion and toss into the skillet.
- Chop the pepper into 1 inch (3 cm) pieces, adding it to the skillet. Toss to coat with butter and let the mixture sweat.
- Scoop the pepper mixture out of the skillet and into the bowl of farfel.
- Season the farfel egg mixture with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Mix to incorporate the peppers and seasoning with the farfel and eggs.
- If necessary, melt more butter in the skillet. Spoon the batter into the skillet and smooth it into a large pancake.
- Crumble some cheese onto the matzah mixture. Turn on the broiler as the matzah brei cooks.
- Once the matzah brei has cooked for a few minutes, turn off the flame and place under the broiler. Remove when the top is golden and the cheese has melted.
Make matzotto. Matzotto? Let me explain.
Last Saturday evening was the first night of Passover, that eight day festival of freedom during which observant Jews abstain from eating leavened baked goods. The prohibition extends to grains of all kinds, and for many Jews, certain legumes and seeds as well. This means no bread, pasta, oatmeal, and even popcorn, hummus, tofu, mustard. Homes are cleaned from top to bottom and kitchens turned inside out so that any stray crumbs are disposed of. Pots, pans, and dishes must be kashered or replaced with kitchenware specially reserved for the holiday. Household cooks must then prepare meals based on such varied carbohydrate sources as potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, and potatoes. (World Jewry heaved a collective sigh of relief a few years ago when quinoa was designated kosher for Passover. Quinoa is a new world seed rather than a grain, so rabbis have permitted its consumption on Passover.)
Aside from potatoes, many Jews traditionally prepare a variety of starchy side dishes using matzah, such as the famous matzah balls or kneidlach. These are light and fluffy soup dumplings that melt in your mouth when you eat them, in stark contrast to the matzah from which they are made.
As matzah is scarce this year, I bought a huge container of matzah farfel. Matzah farfel is bits of crumbled matzah, which is the cracker bread we Jews eat during the 8 days of the Passover holiday. To be precise, matzah as it is known in the Western world represents the Ashkenazi (European) Jewish tradition of baking flat, hard unseasoned cracker-like breads for Passover. The traditional matzah of Mizrahi Jews (Jews of the Levant or Middle East) on the other hand, is often a soft flatbread much like naan, which is much more fun to eat. It’s hard to make a matzah sandwich that doesn’t turn into a plateful of crispy, shard-like crumbs. If you’ve ever tried spreading cold butter on a slice of matzah, you know what I’m talking about. You may as well eat it with a spoon. I guess that’s where matzah farfel comes from. Matzah factories must have giant buckets full of inadvertently broken matzah which they process and sell as farfel. And there you have it. European Jewry’s answer to pasta for Passover.
In this recipe, I cooked matzah farfel risotto style, more or less. You can also use matzah farfel to make kugel, a traditional savory or sweet pudding served on Jewish holidays.
butter and olive oil
1 cup matzah farfel or bits of broken matzah
1-2 handfuls dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water
handful of chopped parsley or other herbs
salt and pepper
- Melt some butter with olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the matzah farfel and stir to cover in butter and lightly toast until slightly golden. Add more butter or olive oil if the pan gets dry.
- Remove mushrooms from from water and squeeze out any remaining moisture. Reserve the soaking water.
- Coarsely chop mushrooms and add to farfel. Stir to cover in butter.
- Add some of the mushroom water to farfel mixture and stir. As the farfel absorbs the mushroom water, add more and stir.
- Taste as you go to get the consistency you prefer. Then season to taste with salt, pepper, and herbs.
Variations: Use smoked salt and/or smoked paprika. Add bits of smoked duck or goose. Use hot chicken stock to soak the mushrooms. Use whole wheat matzah farfel or spelt matzah farfel. Grate in some parmiggiano or pecorino.
Note: To keep the matzotto kosher, use either dairy or meat ingredients, but not both.
Just in case you missed it, here’s a link to my recent post at Well Fed on the Town in which I discuss chocolate, chipotle, and almonds oh my!
When there’s no bread in the cupboard, and you don’t feel like making popcorn, a good cracker is just the thing for a crisp, mid-morning snack. Along with a slice or two of sharp cheddar cheese, crackers are wonderfully crunchy and filling, perhaps moreso because of their crunchiness. Alas, not all crackers are created equal. I’ve often been disappointed by crackers that go stale only a few days after opening the package, their once satisfying crunch dwindling down to a sad crumble. And don’t even get me started on those mass-produced boxes of hydrogenated soybean oil, with a cardboard texture and a gauzy mouthfeel. The best crackers are crunchy and fresh, without unappealing ingredients that serve as cheap shelf-life extenders.
Here are my current favorites.
An organic, whole grain brand, these crackers look a little too good to be true. Their trendy packaging and enthusiastic granola marketing initially raised my suspicions. I was wrong. Dr. Kracker’s flatbreads are really, really crunchy, and they stay that way. They’re also quite flavorful, whether made of wheat or spelt, or speckled with grated cheese and sunflower seeds. These crackers are great by themselves, or with a little butter and cheese. They’d probably be great for dunking or breaking into a bowl of soup in the winter.
“Las legitimas y acreditadas,” legitimate and accredited, claims the packaging. Ines Rosales’ Andalusian tortas are sweet and anise flavored, a fine accompaniment to a cup of tea. I found them at Market Hall, the local gourmet shop, and was immediately intrigued by the idea of sweet olive oil-based crackers. Each torta is wrapped in wax paper, which keeps it fresh and crisp. These tortas are definitely not organic or whole-grain, but that’s not really what they’re about. Originally handmade by Rosales herself, tortas de aceite are a simple treat, made mostly of flour, olive oil, sugar, anise and sesame seeds. The tortas aren’t handmade anymore, but their homey packaging and simple flavor make them seem like they are.
I spotted a box of Eriksson’s handmade barley “thin bread” at Ikea. I’ve never eaten barley bread before, so naturally, I had to buy a box. These organic flatbreads look like matza, but they’re unlike any bread of affliction you’ve ever eaten. The barley crackers are paper thin and crisp, with a mildly sweet flavor—probably a result of the barley and condensed milk included in the ingredients. I’ve enjoyed this flatbread on its own, and as a vehicle for an egg and cheese open-face sandwich. The Erikssons recommend the traditional accompaniments: “goat or cow cheese, jam or just butter.” Alternatively, you can “break the bread into milk or yogurt, for breakfast or supper.” Mmm… barley flatbread and filmjÃ¶lk.
In the spirit of local food month, I’d like to recommend some great local foods produced within 100 miles of the San Francisco bay area. Well, almost. Yerba Santa dairy is 132 miles away from my house–I Google mapped it (why yes, I am a geek!). But I think that’s close enough.
Yerba Santa Goat Dairy: Chevre and Bodega Goat Cheeses
I tasted Yerba Santa’s goat cheeses recently at the San Francisco Ferry Building farmer’s market. Both are fresh cheeses made of raw goat’s milk. The chevre is slightly crumbly, with a texture similar to that of farmer’s cheese. The Bodega is more of a spread.
Initially, both cheeses are sweet and mild, like cow’s milk. They finish with a soft tanginess, the kind you usually taste in goat’s milk cheeses, but much more subtle. This surprised me, as goat cheeses are usually so dominant. I do enjoy strong, tangy goat cheeses, but Yerba Santa’s cheeses stand out with their unusually delicate goat milk flavor. The chevre is delicious by itself, on a slice of bread, or crumbled over some pasta, polenta, or grilled vegetables. The Bodega is flavored with cilantro and green chile, a combination which dairyman Daniel Salmon says came to him in a dream. The combination of flavors is startlingly harmonious. The heat of the chile, the slightly bitter, slightly grassy cilantro, and the soft goat cheese all blend together wonderfully on the tongue. Try spreading it on a slice of thick country bread topped with cucumber slices. Dreamy indeed.
Spring Hill Dairy: Cultured Jersey Butter
Spring Hill Dairy produces possibly the yellowest butter I’ve ever seen that isn’t artificially hued. (Aside from making very pretty butter, the bright yellow color might indicate a very well grazed herd of Jersey cows.) If you buy from Spring Hill’s stall at the farmer’s market, there’s a good chance the butter is less than two days old. This is perhaps the freshest butter you can find, unless you live on a farm. The butter has a very high butterfat content, giving it a creamy, smooth texture that spreads better and melts faster. The salted butter is very lightly salted, such that you can use it for savory or sweet dishes. Its flavor is sweet with a very slight, pleasant tang from the cultures added to the cream. Spring Hill sells the butter by the pound and half pound. You’d think a pound might be too much (as I did), but it really isn’t. The dairy employee who sold me the butter assured me that its low moisture content allows it to freeze very well. If you somehow manage not to eat this butter on a daily basis, you can chop it into large, plastic-wrapped chunks and freeze it.