Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana’s Passover Cake)

This chocolate, apple and walnut torte is the Passover cake my mother and grandmother have made for decades. I have been asked to share the recipe several times — and here it is! Like my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, it is published in an old synagogue cookbook that I still use for traditional Jewish recipes, including many from my family. (By the way, Mower’s matzo ball soup is still surprisingly popular on Pinterest.)

chocolate, apple, walnut passover torte

My grandmother “Nana” had a serious stroke 12 years ago. She doesn’t remember much that has happened since her childhood, and pretty much thinks of herself as a girl. She doesn’t remember me when I visit her memory-focused assisted living, but gets that I am there for her and is as sweet and as pleasant as ever. She even forgets what she said a minute before, and when she finds a good joke, she repeats it. We were only recently a family of four on our last visit to New York and she kept asking how many kids we planned. She would then advise, “Two or three is okay, but more than four is too many.” So of course my husband would tell her we wanted fourteen and she would crack up. This happened about twenty times in the space of an hour.

But memory is a funny thing. She can identify the names of every single plant on the grounds. And she remembers recipes! On my last trip, my uncle gave me her recipe box to bring to the visit. Nana remembered them all and shared stories. I recognized the Passover cake recipe as identical to the one I had made a month before (and every Passover before it since I was a teenager.) I am calling it “Nana’s Passover Cake” but as she reminded me, it was originally the recipe of her friend Bea Glück. “Well, since it was Bea’s recipe, naturally it’s a winner. Natch!”

Nana's Passover Cake

As you may see in the index card, there isn’t a ton of detail to the technique, nor in the version my mom wrote for the cookbook. But I’ve added some tips and my own system for sailing through the prep. You could make it all by hand, but a food processor and mixer will help. Tip: no need to wash the processor between ingredients. I even go ahead and make charoset right afterwards.

A friend in the midst of a Whole 30 challenge, gave me a Paleo-friendly apple and nut muffin that had such a similar taste and texture. Although this a “torte” in the sense that it uses no flour, rather ground nuts and a handful of matzo meal (similar in baking to breadcrumbs), I bet it could be adapted to gluten-free pretty easily. Try using almond meal in place of the matzo and/or more apple. There is no added fat, other than the eggs and nuts, and this Passover torte is not too sweet. My grandmother noted “Red Delicious” apples, but I have often used Fujis with good results.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana's Passover Cake)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish (Passover)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Passed down from my grandmother, this traditional passover cake could easily be confused with a contemporary paleo-ish torte, featuring chocolate, chopped walnuts and apple in a light sponge. It's not too sweet, and everyone loves it!
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
  • 2 apples, cored and grated
  • 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup matzo meal
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350*F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Using a grater, or grating attachment on a food processor, grate the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl. Without washing or rinsing the food processor, grate the apples. (The apples should be cored but don't peel them.) Add to the mixing bowl. Without washing, take out the grating plate and put the chopping blade into the food processor. Chop the walnuts and then add to the mixing bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick (at least 2 minutes on high/fast.) Gently stir into the chocolate, apples, and walnuts and add the matzo meal. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the batter.
  4. Bake in the greased springform pan for 1 hour. Cool in pan.
Notes
The instructions include equipment (such as a food processor and stand mixer or hand mixer) that make the cake a snap. But the cake can also be made by grating, chopping, and beating by hand.

Serving options: I like the cake with whipped cream (or non-dairy whip for Kosher friends) and strawberries. (Strawberries are usually in season for Passover/Spring Equinox/Easter.) My mom's transcription from the 80's suggests sprinkling with powdered sugar just before serving.

The cake is best the first day, but can be baked the morning of a big dinner.

If you like this recipe, please like the Baby Birds Farm page on Facebook, or follow my Jewish Recipes board on Pinterest.

Getting My Color Back (Amazing Lash Feature)

The last time I went to the zoo, I overheard a tour guide talk about the flamingos. Everyone knows they are pink because of their food and has heard, “You may notice the babies aren’t bright pink yet because they haven’t had the time to develop their color.” drained flamingo
But this time I heard something new. She said that the mothers of young birds lose their bright color, too. They give so much of their energy to raising their babies they literally fade to pale pink or white. Raise your hand if you can relate!

So… funny thing: you may not know this about me, but there was a time I was on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.livingfountain I was actually right across from the flamingos, near the entrance, and heard the speech of the tour guides several times a day. I downplay it, but as a classical statue that came to life as a living water fountain, there was a beauty and glamour I now miss. I got to travel internationally as a performer, but perfected the show at the zoo.

And now, if I’m at the zoo, I’m just another mom in running shoes, juggling two small kids. No more red velvet curtain and dramatic music to mark my entrance.

But guess what? I’m starting to get my color back! The good news for flamingo parents is that they gain this color back eventually as the chicks become independent and eat on their own.* And a friend and I were invited to try out lash extensions at Amazing Lash in Carmel Valley. To be honest, she never made it as her son ended up sick, and well, priorities…

Lash extensions are semi-permanent lashes that are individually glued to your natural lashes. They last a few weeks and fall off as your lashes naturally fall out. I have stick straight lashes that point down and had always wondered about extensions.

before

I think they came out pretty. What do you think? In the photo below I am not wearing any eye makeup at all. “I woke up like this,” the ads boast.

after lash extensions

I also wanted to show a comparison of lash extensions to what I look like with eye makeup. I thought that would be a more telling comparison. So in the next image, I’m wearing two-coats of mascara and eyeliner, and mechanically curled my lashes.

before with makeup

Below, again, I didn’t put on any eye makeup. That’s how they look! (And that’s a crappy selfie with a cell phone. I wish I had a real photographer and real camera to show them off.)

Abby - Baby Birds Farm

The studio in Carmel Valley is new, and is very clean and upscale. I learned that all of the lash artists are either licensed estheticians or licensed cosmetologist, but that they have to be licensed. They have four different styles to choose from. I went with the “natural” and they get more dramatic from there. I’m really happy with them because they look better than any applied eye makeup, yet it’s not too much to wear to work with no makeup. They feel light and nothing like fake eyelashes.

Amazing Lash Carmel Valley

The staff was friendly and my stylist was a sweetheart. I actually had an issue with one of my natural lashes falling into my eye under the weight of the extension. It was curling into my eye, poking me, and I couldn’t remove it without ripping out some adhesive. I called the shop the next morning when I realized what was going on, and they got me in instantly. The stylist fixed me up, and there was no charge. Disclaimer: I received the initial lash application free as part of a blogger outreach program. However, the experience I’m sharing, and the before and after photos are all mine.

About Amazing Lash

Amazing Lash Studios are retail salons that apply semi-permanent eyelash extensions with a proprietary, patented process to your own lashes, replicating the curve and size of natural lashes. It is patented application process that enables our highly trained staff of licensed estheticians to complete the service in a fraction of the time required at traditional outlets. Currently there are two locations in San Diego, Carmel Valley and Mission Valley.

*Flamingo reference and flamingo image credit

Vermouth Bianco and Cocktail Grapefruit

While living a year in Spain, I took a weekend trip to Paris, and stayed with friends, two sisters. Before dinner in their parents home, they served me a simple cocktail of sweet white vermouth, over ice, with a twist of lemon peel. “Vermouth Bianco” is a fortified wine, infused with botanicals and aromatics, like vanilla. I’ve been on the lookout for it ever since.

vermouth bianco and grapefruit

Vermouth Bianco can be harder to find in the states, but as slightly bitter, drinkable cocktails are in fashion, it is making a resurgence. In San Diego, the BevMo on Rosecrans carries several brands, but other BevMos in Southern California do not. (I’ve looked!) The also have a few online. If you know of other places in San Diego that carry Vermouth Bianco or Vermouth Blanc (the Italian and French versions, respectively), please let me know!

vermouth bianco and grapefruit

I really enjoy some of the “finer” brands, like Carpano, Contratto and Dolin, but for the money, Martini & Rossi Bianco Vermouth, is quite drinkable. At less than half the price of the other brands, it has a great balance of bitter and sweet, botanicals and vanilla, and is lovely straight up on it’s own. All Biancos should definitely be served well chilled.

vermouth bianco

Above photo credit: Punch

I was inspired by the super sweet “Cocktail Grapefruit” at Specialty Produce right now to riff on the classic aperitif of my French friends. This “cocktail” recipe is really just chilled Vermouth Bianco on the rocks with a thick wedge of grapefruit. You can give a slight squeeze to add a smidge of juice. Be sure to select an organic or pesticide-free grapefruit so you can add the peel, too. The citrus and bitterness of the grapefruit peel pairs so well with the aromatics of the Vermouth Bianco. The quality of your fruit will make a difference.

Vermouth Bianco and Cocktail Grapefruit

The Cocktail Grapefruit at Specialty Produce are currently from the local Koral’s Tropical Fruit Farm, and the flesh has ranged in color from pink to the orange above. Most are pretty seedy, but otherwise easy to snack on, with relatively thin membranes. All have been super juicy and extremely sweet, and a little smaller than other grapefruit. Usually I cut one grapefruit up, put one slice in my cup, and the Baby Birds devour the rest of the slices in a matter of seconds.

When you have such good quality ingredients, keep the recipe simple to highlight their taste and freshness. Give it a shot!

French Cheese Pop Up Today and Tomorrow

Did I mention I love good cheese? If you are in San Diego, the Cheeses of Europe, are doing a cheese pop-up store in Fashion Valley, today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Yes, it already started!!

French Cheese Pop Up

My daughters couldn’t wait to dig into my modest haul of breton butter, Comte, and Pont l’Eveque, which we enjoyed for one of our breakfasts today. (We eat like hobbits.) We ate our bread french style, with a thick slice of salted butter AND a slice of Comte. The Comte tasted exactly like how I remembered it from the Cheese Shop in Carmel when I was a kid. The vendor explained that the strict guidelines ensure that the exact way it is made, from the type of cow, it’s feed, the terroir, stay exactly the same, which ensures a very reliable product.

French Cheese Pop Up

Sponsored by the European Union, several producers are highlighting different french cheeses, mostly made from cow-milk, and fresh butters…. yum. Yes, there are samples. A LOT of samples. And to complement them, the group will be offering pairings with french red and white wines, and local brews from Green Flash’s Cellar 3. Yup, free food AND free drinks.

French Cheese Pop Up

That was enough to bring me down to Fashion Valley with a friend. But we were surprised to see that they were also selling the cheeses and butters at what they call “entry level” prices. I call it crack prices. The first hit is free. The second is at a surprisingly low price, and then you are hooked. Most were less than a third or a half of retail prices, and some are still very hard to find in the U.S.

Some favorite bries, camemberts, etc. are easy to find in grocery stores, others require a trip to a cheese shop such as Venissimo or the Cheese Shop of San Diego, and still other discoveries are not even sold in the country yet! We loved hearing more about the smelly Epoisses, the mite-covered Mimolette, and the bleus, ranging from an incredibly mild Saint Agur, to the robust, Roquefort.

French Cheese Pop Up

The booth is set up in the open center of Fashion Valley, on the ground floor, in front of Macy’s. Look for a giant cow and signage regarding the proper way to cut the cheese. And be inspired by the cheese haul of my friend below.

French Cheese Pop Up

Go just to taste the freebies, or score a deal for an epic cheese party!

Prepkitchen Little Italy: A Restaurant Week Preview

Happy January friends! We may be passed the decadence of the holidays but we are still eating very well. Last night Papa Bird and I went down to Little Italy to the “partying step-child” of Prepkitchen locations.

prosciutto wrapped trout with carrots and lentils

I am collaborating with San Diego Restaurant Week (SDRW) to celebrate their 12th year of discounted fine dining and preview one of their 180 restaurants. You may know I’m a fan of seasonal, farm-to-table fine dining, so when they matched me with Prepkitchen Little Italy, I was thrilled. The Prepkitchen concept started with the La Jolla location as a spot “for chefs by chefs.” They serve seasonal comfort food, often Mediterranean-inspired. As it has expanded, each location has its own character, and Little Italy is known for being fun and in the center of nightlife.

Prepkitchen Little Italy

For those that have been living under a rock, San Diego Restaurant Week is when an impressive list of restaurants offer prix-fixe meals for a steal. A three-course dinner is $20, $30, $40 or $50 per person, and lunch (two-courses) is only $10, $15 or $20 per person. For reference, my entrée (the trout pictured above), would normally cost $28.50, so for $30 for the SDRW dinner at Prepkitchen, an appetizer and dessert are basically free.

San Diego Restaurant Week 2016

And let’s talk about appetizers. Prepkitchen is a particularly fun choice for Restaurant Week. They don’t offer a traditional prix-fixe meal with a few options for each course. They throw the whole menu open and let you pick from anything they are making that night. My pick of the appetizers was the Ahi Tartare (normally $14.50; GF) with a smoked onion puree, pickled shallots and crispy sunchokes. I was really hoping there would be some kind of crudo or sashimi dish available. I personally believe that all of the restaurants in the Whisknladle group (Prepkitchen, Catania and Whisknladle) do crudos exceptionally well. The General Manager (a sweet and friendly guy named Darin) told me they would keep one on the menu for SDRW. The menu changes nightly and the fish may change with the catch, but the basic idea will stay the same.

a wintery ahi tartare

The Ahi Tartare was definitely the most interesting dish we tried. Wintery, rooted and warming, yet refreshing at the same time. Papa Bird said tasting the sunchoke chip with the smoked onion purée reminded him of BBQ potato chips (in a good way.) The sunchokes certainly had the crunch of a perfect potato chip. The dish was light but substantial, and garnered an “I’d definitely eat it again.”

burrata, prosciutto, butternut squash mostarda, fried sage

I had checked out a sample menu before going down and was hoping the Burrata and Butternut Squash Mostarda would be there. It was! And should stay on through the season. Most of the squash is grown by the group at Milagro Vineyards. I wrote more about their farm2table efforts here. Mostarda is sort of like a jam or preserve with fresh mustard seeds. With quality ingredients, it was a classic combo: sweet and creamy from the burrata, with the salty prosciutto and crunchy pumpkin seeds and crostini. Satisfying. Probably the best part was the fried sage, perfectly brittle and crisp. (Normally $16.50 and GF without the crostini.)

Prepkitchen Little Italy January Menu

The menu changes every night, so I can’t promise every item will be there. In general, it will be similar, but may feature a different fish or cut of meat, for example. For entrees, Papa Bird chose the Fusilli Bolognese, with Beef, Pork, Rosemary and a ton of Parmigiano-Regiano (normally $20.50.) He was a trooper with my obnoxious photo taking, so I let him have one dish without stealing its soul. The GM was confident it would be on the menu throughout Restaurant Week and we all recommend it. The pasta was al dente, the proportions spot on. Cheesy and filling, it could easily have been shared.

Likewise, the Prosciutto-Wrapped Trout (pictured at top, GF) should be available throughout the week. For a humble fish, this was hands down my favorite dish of the night, with a sliver of lemon (rind and all) tucked into the fish. It rested above a bed of super flavorful lentils and shared its cast-iron tub with the cutest, sweetest agave-glazed carrots.  Topped with pickled mustard seeds and a liberal sprinkle of fresh parsley, I don’t think it even needed the prosciutto to be full of rich umami. Those carrots were super fresh and were sourced by Specialty Produce, who provide most of the restaurant’s fruit and vegetables. We chatted the server about the fun of going down to the Specialty Produce warehouse to shop as a home cook.

Other dishes that are popular include the Bacon Wrapped DatesBeef TartareMary’s Pan Roasted Chicken, and the Burger. Go! And please tell me what you order so I can vicariously eat more.

Prepkitchen Little Italy Drink Menu

Drinks are not included in the $20 lunch or $30 dinner, but are highly recommended. (You will be saving so much on the food, you will be able to afford an extra drink or two.) PKLI is known for their cocktails and eclectic wines and beers. My favorite was the Heart of Darkness with Tequila, Aperol, Lemon and Pomegranate Shrub. It was balanced, refreshing and very drinkable, as was the Comfort Blanket with Orange-Tea Infused Bourbon, Vanilla, Citrus and Angostura Bitters. Other drinks I’ve enjoyed there include the Colonel Jerry and Horse & Buggy. The beers and wine are thoughtfully chosen and unexpected. While they emphasize local makers, it is definitely not the same lineup as most restaurants around town.

budino

One of the best parts of Restaurant Week is that even though you are too stuffed for dessert, oh well, you have to get it. The Warm Chocolate Budino is a year-round staple on the menu because, chocolate. It is a chocolate pudding cake served in a wide mouthed mason jar, offering warm comfort with a zingy espresso gelato (house-made), whipped cream and little chocolate crunchies. I got half way through it before I felt guilty for not sharing it with our sweet-obsessed daughters.

Prepkitchen Little Italy Info

  • Get a reservation if you are thinking about going during Restaurant Week!
  • 1660 INDIA ST SECOND FLOOR, SAN DIEGO, 92101
  • 619-398-8383
  • prepkitchenlittleitaly.com
  • If you post a picture of any SDRW meal on social media, use #Food4Kids and tag the restaurant and Sysco will donate $1 to hungry children!