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Posts Tagged ‘apricots’

A lot of people dread the week-long holiday of Passover because of its slightly restrictive dietary rules. In all honesty, it’s really not all that bad. Sure, if you eat a lot of matzo all week long, you may end up being so bloated you resemble a matzo ball. But in reality there are many foods that you’re still able to eat during the holiday, not involving the dreaded matzo.

The key is to find recipes that you make during the year that happen to involve all ingredients allowed on Passover. The fewer Passover substitutions, the better. For example, potatoes are fine, as are eggs, meat, fruits and veggies..or your favorite flourless chocolate cake recipe 😉 If you have a recipe that involves a scant amount of flour, replacing it with matzo flour (see below for description) or potato starch is fine. Obviously trying to bake a regular cake wouldn’t work, as flour is a primary ingredient. Catch my drift?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the holiday, Passover commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.  When Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten. Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday.

Thus, many passover foods revolve around this dry (and not very tasty) cracker. Although you can’t use flour during the holiday, the way of getting around this is to use something called Matzo Flour/Matzo Meal which is simply ground-up matzo in a powdered/coarsely ground form. Again, this is only recommended in recipes in which there is not a HUGE amount of flour, but for the most part, it should work.

Which brings me to one of my favorite recipes ever: Apricot Chocolate Torte. This recipe actually calls for regular flour and is not a passover recipe at all, but when the simple matzo flour substitution is made, it tastes identical to real thing. This is one of my all time favorite desserts and I often find myself making it at Thanksgiving as well. My mom has been making this for years and I had no idea where it came from (and I’m not sure if she did either) but when I googled the title, it turns out she must have found it on the back of the apricot box 🙂


Apricot Chocolate Torte

Recipe adapted from the back of the apricot box!

Print this recipe!

Ingredients:

Filling

11 oz. dried apricots, chopped
1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons matzo CAKE meal-not matzo meal (or regular flour)*
Juice from ½ fresh lemon

Crust
3 oz. Unsweetened chocolate
2 cups whole walnuts
1.5 cups matzo CAKE meal (or regular flour)
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine, chilled, cut into pieces **
2 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 oz. shaved semi-sweet chocolate for garnish

Directions:

Filling
Combine all ingredients in heavy saucepan. Bring slowly to a boil over low heat. Reduce heat & simmer, stirring frequently and mashing any large pieces of apricot, until mixture resembles thick jam – about 25 minutes.

Crust
Preheat oven 350°F

Place chocolate in bowl of processor and chop roughly. Add nut and chop coarsely. Add flour, sugar & salt then blend. (Bits of chocolate and walnut should be clearly visible). Add butter & process to blend. Add water and vanilla then mix, pulsing the on/off button of your food process until mixture is crumbly.

In an 8 or 9 inch Springform pan, pat 2/3 of dough into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides. Add filling. Crumble additional dough over the top to cover. Bake 40 minutes. Let cool.

Decorate top with shaved chocolate if desired.

*Feel free to use regular flour in place of the matzo flour and use this recipe all year long!
**Use butter in place of margarine when not making for Passover.

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For those of you who don’t know, Hamantashen are Jewish cookies/pastries  recognizable by their three-cornered shape. The shape is achieved by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough, with a filling placed in the center. They are traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Purim (sorry this recipe is a little late, as Purim was on March 20th). Hamantaschen are made with many different fillings, including prunes, nut, poppy seed, date, apricot, apple, fruit preserves, cherry, chocolate, dulce de leche, halva, or even caramel or cheese.

Poppy seed, prune and jam are the most traditional of the fillings. In fact, I never even knew of those other combos, but Wikipedia informed me of them.

Wikipedia also taught me something else new…the singluar of hamantashen is actually hamantash. I think that’s a fact that few jews know, as you usually hear people say “I just ate a hamantashen.” Well, thanks Wikipedia!

These cookies are named as a reference to Haman, the villain of Purim, as described in the Book of Esther. In Hebrew school I always learned that they were shaped in a triangle because that is the shape of the hat that Haman wore. But in my research for this blog post, I found out that the pastries are actually supposed to resemble the “ears of Haman.” Personally, I think that hat story is better. Who wants to eat an ear?! Well, unless it’s an Elephant Ear 😉

I thought it would be fun to have my great (and oldest!) friend, Erica, bake these up with me. I’ve known her since I was just a wee 4 year old 🙂 So the two of us baked up a storm this weekend and produced lots of Hamantashen, while chatting it up and having some girl time…in my opinion, the best way to bake!

*Please note that all cookies shown are Erica’s. She made hers nice and pretty  and didn’t get greedy with the fillings and overfill them like I did. Hers came out cute and attractive while mine were ugly and messy.

In making this recipe there are some tips I learned:

1. DO NOT OVERFILL the cookies. If you do, they will explode and all the filling will ooze out. I teaspoon should be plenty for attractive cookies. If you don’t care how pretty they are, then fill as much as you want, because they still taste good 🙂

2. Do not roll the dough too thin or the cookies will not keep shape as well. 1/4″ is the perfect thickness.

3. Make sure the rolled-out and cut dough is cold before you try to form the cookies or they will stick to your hands and not to themselves.

4. Make sure the cookies are cold and firm before putting in the oven. Put them in the freezer for at LEAST 20 min. If you don’t, the cookies will spread way too much in the oven and the filling will ooze out.

5. Cool thoroughly after removing from oven.

Now, without further ado, the recipe 🙂


Hamantashen

Adapted from the New York Times
Yields about 20 cookies

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large egg yolks
8 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature, in small pieces
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
Dash of salt
1 large egg, beaten, for the glaze
Various fillings: jam, chocolate chips, nutella, or anything your heart desires

1. Put the confectioners’ sugar and the egg yolks in a food processor and blend. Add butter and lemon zest and process to blend. Gradually add the flour and the salt, pulsing until it forms a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. 2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 pastry sheets with parchment paper. 

3. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. If dough is too soft at this stage, refrigerate rolled-out dough for 20 min or until firm.

4. Use a round cookie cutter or glass to cut 2.5-inch circles. Put a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of each, and press up the sides to form triangles. Brush the tops with beaten egg. Put trays of cookies in freezer for about 20 min or until very firm.

5. Remove cookies from freezer and bake until golden and dough is delicately firm all the way through, about 20 minutes. If trays are on different racks, switch them after about 10 minutes.

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For Presidents’ Day weekend, Nate and I did what we usually do on a long weekend…we headed down to his mom’s house in PA (near Wilmington). As always, I used this time to relax, recharge, and make use of her giant kitchen!

Aaaah, so much spaaaace!

I had so much room I didn’t know what to do with myself…so I decided to cook 🙂 It was so nice to be in a space big enough that I didn’t have to trip over myself. Instead, I was tripping over dogs. See if you can find the furry fella in the pic below. Luckily, they were fairly well-behaved.

I chose two dishes that are always winners. One is a chicken dish with apricots that we seem to always make during the holidays.  It’s been around so long that I have no idea where it came from, but trust me, it’s worth making!

The other is a  Brussel Sprout Hash with Carmelized Shallots that has become a regular on our Thanksgiving menu. People start getting all hot and bothered when we mention anything about trying a different vegetable recipe for that year. Recipes are at the bottom of the post.

I actually did some baking too, but I’m working on tweaking the recipe because I want to enter it in a couple of baking contests. It’s my first time ever doing something like that, so cross your fingers for me! After the contest deadline, I’ll be sure to post the recipes 🙂 Does anyone know of any good contests besides Pillsbury?

Man, I thought I knew how to relax on a long weekend…but apparently I got nothing on these pooches:

"I know, I'm adorable"

Nate’s mom has two adorable Golden Retrievers- Haley and Ezra.

Canine camouflage

These doggies are his mom’s pride and joy, so for Christmas I thought I’d paint one of their portraits for her. I chose Haley since she’s a camera whore. Ezra freaks when you try to take his picture. I did the painting of four 6″ canvases that, when put together, form the painting. I hung them on the wall in her living room.

Haley's Portrait, by Me

The sides of the canvases are deep, for a more modern look.

side view of painting. Note deep side edges I made a contrasting color 🙂

Long weekends are never long enough. I can’t believe I have to go back to work tomorrow and the next long weekend isn’t until Memorial Day I think!

 

Baked Chicken with Apricots and Currants
Serves 4, source unknown

3-1/2 to 4 lb. chicken, quartered
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 tsp. ginger
1 c. orange marmalade
¼ c. apple juice
¼ c. orange juice (can be canned)
4 oz. dried apricots
4 oz. currants (or raisins)
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar

Preheat oven 375.

Place chicken, skin-side up in shallow roasting pan – can use disposable.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper and ginger. Spread on jam, pour on 2 juices. Bake 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and add fruit, mixing to incorporate. Sprinkle brown sugar over all. Return to oven and bake, basting frequently, until golden and shiny, about 40-45 minutes.

Remove to platter. Pour some juice over meat and serve.

 

 

Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots
Bon Appétit, November 2007
Serves 4-6

3 tbsp. butter, divided into 2 pieces
1/4 lb. shallots, sliced thinly
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
¾ lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup water

Melt 1-1/2 Tbsp. butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.

Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 2 minutes.

Halve sprouts lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into thin (1/8”) slices. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Saute until brown at edges, 5 minutes.

Add water and rest of butter. Saute until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, 2-3 min. Add shallots, season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

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