Tag Archives: jewish food

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.

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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.

Picking Perfect Potatoes

Hanukkah started last Sunday. We had everything we needed for latkes, except for potatoes. In years past, we used Japanese sweet potatoes from our backyard for latkes, but this year’s potato harvest was slim. We could’ve run to any grocery store, but I thought it might be more fun to explore the Specialty Produce warehouse with the Little Birds. I figured we would find more potato varieties there, or at least something fresh and local.

hunting for potatoes at Specialty Produce

Specialty Produce is known for supplying the majority of the good restaurants in San Diego with fruits and vegetables. They also let the general public shop, seven days a week. That day it was just us, the most recent winner of MasterChef Claudia Sandoval (not to celebrity name drop or anything), and restaurant buyers in the warehouse. I had picked up Farmers’ Market Boxes there before, but this was our first time shopping the warehouse. After signing a liability release, the Little Birds and I were asked to put on gloves before touching any of the produce. The girls thought this was great. They were already dressed like princesses, so gloves only complemented their outfits.

We explored the organic section and the three large walk-in coolers, including the Farmers Market cooler, which is filled with finds from local farms. Tip: wear layers! It was a warm San Diego December day, and I froze in the cooler with just a sun dress on.

hunting for potatoes at Specialty Produce

Great success! We quickly found organic Russet and sweet potatoes. Diving into the Farmers Market walk-in, we discovered little purple potatoes from the Weiser Family Farms, and “Masquerade” potatoes. I had to look up the Masquerade potatoes on the Specialty Produce App – they are a yellow-fleshed potato, with purple skin, and a lighter gold coloring around the eyes. We also found these pretty potatoes with violet pink lipstick “kisses.” I tried to Google “kiss potatoes,” as the staff called them, but only found a Gene Simmons Mr. Potato Head… My best guess is that they are Klondike Royales.

We also stocked up on fruit, including super sweet, pink-fleshed Cara Cara oranges and crisp Shinko asian pears from Ken’s Top Notch Produce, Fuji apples from Fair Hills Apple Farm, and Pomegranate from Koral’s Tropical Fruit Farm. I kept checking our receipt for a mistake. The medium-sized bag of potatoes (above) and a large bag of fruit was only $12. Try spending only $12 for this quality of produce at a farmer’s market or Whole Foods!

purple potato latkes

We love our latkes! I fried them in avocado oil and served them with homemade applesauce, alongside Tri Tip from Seaside Market (aka Cardiff Crack), donuts and gelt.

For latke-making tips, see last year’s latkes and lox with home-smoked salmon. And for a yummy twist, our Brussels sprouts and sweet potato latkes from two years ago included cumin seeds. Yum!


Rugelach

First: I’m an aunt again! My baby birds are now “big cousins” to a little girl. Congratulations to my sister, Marjorie, and brother-in-law, Sam!! Now, rugelach… Rugelach is a Jewish cookie made with a cream cheese pastry dough, and rolled with brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon, and anything else you like. These rugelach include chocolate chips.

Rugelach recipe from Baby Birds Farm

This rugelach recipe comes from my mom and has been perfected for over 20 years. For most of those years she has lead the baking for the Jewish Food Festival in Carmel, for which she and a team make 2000+ pieces in small batches each year. When a recipe has been made several hundred times, you know that it is tried and true.

jewish food festival brideHere I am with my dad, circa age 15, in a mock wedding from the era of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Jewish Food Festival.

Random trivia: My cousin Rachel has had many nicknames over the years, but “Rugelach” is one of the earliest.

This recipe freezes really well. My mom will pre-cut a roll, but leave one layer of the roll intact, so that it stays together as a log. Then you can pull it out, cut the rest of the way,  and bake any time you have a craving. The cookies don’t even have to defrost before baking.

This chocolate chip version is tasty, but I love the simple brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts original the best.

Tried and true rugelach recipe, been perfected over 1,000s of times.

Rugelach
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Like my great-grandmother's matzo ball soup, this recipe was originally published in 1994 in a synagogue cookbook. The rugelach recipe was submitted by Joyce Kurtz, with additional tips by Diana Rosenthal.
Ingredients
  • ½ pound (8 ounces) butter
  • ½ pound (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped fine)
  • cinnamon, to taste, or mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese and gradually add flour. Roll into a ball and chill overnight.
  2. Divide ball into 2 pieces and roll each into an ⅛ inch oblong. Mix the brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon and liberally spread the mix on the dough. Roll jelly roll fashion.
  3. Cut ¾ inch slices and bake on a silicone mat at 350* for 20 minutes, or until brown and bubbling.
Notes
Nuts chopped fine with a food processor and mini chocolate chips are preferred as bigger chips or nuts will tear the dough when rolling up the logs.

Latkes, Lox, Crème Fraîche, and Pickled Sweet Onions

Happy Hanukkah! Hanukkah starts tonight, the evening of December 16th. And no celebration is complete without latkes! Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Whole Foods La Jolla, this year’s latkes are inspired by another Jewish tradition: bagels and lox. Papa Bird’s famous smoked salmon, a shmear of crème fraîche, capers and home-made pickled sweet onions topped our latkes.

latkes and lox

My daughter’s favorite book right now is a silly story about runaway latkes that sing and roll off to see the town. She loved helping put the potatoes, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts and onion into the food processor. She also mixed up the eggs and the batter. Kitchen helpers get the spoils of tasting the first batch, hot in the kitchen!

latkes in the kitchen

Here are some of my top latke making tips:

crispy brown latkes

  • Use a brown paper bag to soak up the extra oil.
  • Peanut oil is great for frying. I used a mix of peanut and Avocado oil.
  • My house usually smells of oil for days after making latkes. This year I closed off the kitchen from the rest of the house, opened the door from the kitchen to the outside, and had the exhaust fan on high. Success!
  • There is no need to make balls or patties. Just plop a spoonful of batter in the pan. The latkes will be lighter, lacier and crisper.

Latkes and Lox Recipes

  1. Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potato Latkes –I used a mix of Japanese Yams (less sweet than sweet potatoes) and Russet Potato.
  2. Home Smoked Salmon
  3. Quick Pickled Onions –I used a sweet onion.

Set out a spread of the above recipes, along with crème fraîche (a sweeter, thicker and creamier sour cream) and capers. Enjoy!

Latkes and Lox

Many thanks again to Whole Foods La Jolla! They provided me with all of the ingredients, free of charge. (The recipes and opinions are all mine.) Follow them on Twitter at and . (Follow my tweets @BabyBirdsFarm). You can pin this recipe on Pinterest here, and follow my Jewish Food board for more noshing.

Latkes and Lox: Made with Home-smoked salmon, Brussels sprouts and Sweet potato latkes, creme fraiche, pickled onions and capers

Home Smoked Salmon

I’m happy to share one of my husband’s specialties: Smoked Salmon. After we enjoyed my uncle Bobby’s homemade smoked salmon so much, I gave my husband what we call a “Bobby grill” for his birthday. The Bobby grill is actually a Portable Kitchen Cast-Aluminum Grill and Smoker (Amazon link) but in my family, everything gets named and claimed!

how to make smoked salmon at home

This post was sponsored by Whole Foods La Jolla, who generously provided all the ingredients for this Smoked Salmon recipe and the following “latkes and lox.” Papa Bird points out that this recipe makes a “hot-smoked” salmon, even though it uses indirect heat. True lox is made with a cold-smoking process.

smoked salmon on the pk grill

Although I usually seek out wild salmon, I found myself gravitating to the fresher-looking farmed salmon at Whole Foods. The woman at the counter explained that all of the wild salmon was previously frozen, as the Alaskan season has ended. The farmed salmon was fresh and had never been frozen. Usually I avoid farmed salmon as a big “no no,” but again I was educated. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (my go-to source of info) writes: “Most farmed salmon is on the “Avoid” list due to concerns such as the use of antibiotics important to human health and the potential for parasite and disease transfer to wild salmon populations. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies some salmon fisheries as sustainable.” Whole Foods lists which fish meets Marine Stewardship Council criteria. Their salmon farmers use recirculating aquaculture systems, which is a “Best Choice” for consumers. It is also a more affordable choice!

Papa Bird's Home Smoked Salmon
 
Author:
Cuisine: Jewish-American
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Ingredients
  • 1-2 salmon fillets (2-3 pounds)
  • 1 cup dark, spiced rum
  • 1¼ cup organic brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup honey
Instructions
  1. Remove the skin the salmon and remove any bones. Rinse the salmon in cold water and blot dry. Place the salmon in a baking dish and pour the rum over it, covering completely. Let sit for 30 minutes in the fridge. Then drain the salmon and blot dry.
  2. Mix the brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Spread one third of the mixture in a clean baking dish. Lay the salmon on top and sprinkle the rest of the cure on top, patting it into the fish. Let cure in the fridge for 4 hours.
  3. Set up grill for indirect cooking. The coals should be off to one side and the fish will go over to the other side. Place 4 cups of wood chips in a pan of water to presoak. Place a drip pan under where the fish will go, and preheat grill to 325*.
  4. Rinse off the cure off the salmon with cold water and blot dry. Rub honey into the salmon on both sides. Toss 2 cups of wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Place the salmon on the opposite side as the coals, and over the drip pan. Toss 2 more cups of wood chips on the coals and cover the grill. Smoke the fish until cooked through, about 20 minutes. The fish should feel firm and break into clean flakes.
  5. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm, room temperature or cool. Keeps in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Notes
Papa Bird notes that salmon fillets work better than steaks. He prefers thinner fillets over thick, meaty ones. More surface area to come into contact with the cure and the smoke.

Click on any image in this gallery for step by step photos on how to make smoked salmon at home.

Many thanks again to Whole Foods La Jolla! They provided me with all of the ingredients, free of charge. (The recipes and opinions are all mine.) Follow them on Twitter at  and . (Follow my tweets @BabyBirdsFarm). You can pin this recipe on Pinterest here, and follow my Jewish Food board for more noshing.