Today in the Food Section: Getting Creative with Matzo; Local James Beard Award Nominees

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We had a pretty small food section today, and I wanted to be sure to get as many of your matzo recipes in print as I possibly could, so we held a food story til Saturday to make room.

lj032410matzo01(No, I’m not giving it away. You’ll have to wait to see. Believe me; it will be worth it… it’s on a certain heartthrob chef and what kind of cool ingredients he’s playing with. And that’s all I’m sayin’.) But back to matzo.

Linda Lombroso talked to Wendy Weinstein Karp and chef Matthew Karp at Plates in Larchmont to get their recipe for a matzo lasagna. (Matthew was inspired by a seder he went to in Italy a few years ago.) It sounds delicious.

But so do all the reader recipes. We got a lot of great ideas from you guys! Check out Linda’s story here at LoHud.com/food. And those links expire, so I”ll cut and paste it after the jump.

Also in the food section today, we have a notice about the local James Beard Award nominees (Peter Kelly, for one!) and a recap of what’s been going on here with HVRW coverage. But you Small Bites readers knew that already.

Linda’s story, after the jump.

Getting creative with matzo
Linda Lombroso
The Journal News

Passover matzo tends to lose its appeal by the end of the weeklong holiday. Suddenly, all you’re craving is a plate of spaghetti and a nice, doughy sandwich.

But living without pasta and bread isn’t that difficult with a few tricks up your sleeve. We asked local chefs and home cooks how they tackle the culinary challenges of Passover, and we received some delicious replies.

At Plates, in Larchmont, they’ll be serving matzo lasagna on the second night of Passover, a dish they’ve also included on their takeout menu.

Chef-owner Matthew Karp made it for the first time this year, based on his memories of a seder spent in Italy in 1996.

He and his wife, Wendy Weinstein Karp, found themselves in Milan that Passover, and ended up at a community seder where the main course was roasted goat. Served alongside the goat was a dish of mock lasagna, made with matzo and layers of ricotta and parmesan cheeses, leeks and onions, pureed peas and tomato sauce.

Karp, who fine-tuned the recipe earlier this month, says he kicked up the dish by using only fresh ingredients.

“I think they opened up a can and made a pea puree, but I did not,” he says. “We shucked every single one of those (peas).”

Of course, says Karp, the absence of pasta took some getting used to. “Matzo doesn’t behave quite like a noodle,” he adds.

One of the keys to creating a successful dish is making sure to soak the matzo in cold water for only five minutes. “I just wasted an entire box by oversoaking it,” he says. “It was mushy.”

But Karp’s perfected version of the lasagna, made with homemade tomato sauce, tastes just like the real thing. Italians can’t live without their pasta, he says. With this, they’ve somehow found a way to have it.

In New City, Amy Wertheim loves her matzo brei so much, she’s already dipped into her five-pound package of matzo — twice — and it’s not even Passover yet. Matzo brei is fried matzo made with eggs and a variety of other ingredients.

The recipe, which Wertheim learned from her father, Larry, who since passed away, involves soaking and draining the matzo, adding beaten eggs (one egg for every two matzos) and then throwing in anything from mushrooms to blueberries — just not at the same time.

“It’s delicious just with cinnamon and sugar and butter, but you can use syrup, fruit, compote or chop up leftover meats, whatever you like,” she says. “I don’t think you can wreck it if you know the basic recipe.”

But you don’t always need a recipe to strike Passover gold: Barbara Issak, who grew up in Spring Valley, made her first matzo pizza as a college student in 1980.

“All I had was a toaster oven and not much cooking experience,” says Issak, who lives in New City. “My parents gave me a box of matzo to bring back to school with me, I guess I had cheese, and I kind of created it.”

Issak soon learned there were plenty of other people making matzo pizza, but not that many preparing mock macaroni and cheese, a meal her 16-year-old son looks forward to every Passover.

“It’s like a matzo cheese souffle,” says Issak of the dish, made from matzo farfel, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs and American cheese.

Issak says she’s played with the recipe over the years, tweaking the amounts of cheese and eggs to make it a bit more healthy. “As long as it’s moist, you can kind of improvise,” she says. “If you added more cottage cheese and less sour cream, it would probably be just as good.”

Although Issak also makes Passover rolls, her friend, Donna Smith, is the source of that recipe — a longtime favorite passed down from her mother.

Smith, who grew up in Monsey, remembers eating the rolls frequently as child. She’d spread butter on her hers, then dip them in the runny yolk from fried eggs made sunny-side up.

The recipe for Smith’s rolls calls for only six ingredients: matzo meal, salt, sugar, water, oil and eggs. “It doesn’t have the taste of a kaiser roll that you would get in Rockland Bakery, because that wouldn’t be the point,” says Smith, who lives in New City.

Nevertheless, her family likes her rolls so much, she bakes a fresh batch every other day during Passover. She plans on serving them at her seder with a dish of chopped liver on the side.

Smith thinks she’s hit on the reason they’ve become so popular, at least in her household. “You know what it is, really?” she says. “It’s like everything’s on matzo. Cheese on matzo! Tuna on matzo!”

Smith’s Passover roll is a nice little compromise that makes everybody happy.

Issak, who is looking forward to serving her own specialties next week, perhaps sums it up best. “There’s not as many varieties of foods you can eat on Passover,” she says. “You have to be a little creative.”

Passover Matzo Lasagna From Plates

1 box of matzo

2 cups shucked or frozen peas

1/4 cup diced onions

1 bunch of leeks, cleaned and sliced, white part only

1 teaspoon chopped parsley

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon chopped tarragon

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup tomato sauce

Olive oil, salt and pepper as needed

Soak sheets of matzo in cold water for 5 minutes.

Boil peas for 30 seconds, then puree in blender or food processor (a chunky consistency is fine).

Cook onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft, add leeks and cook till soft, reserve.

Mix parsley and ricotta together. Add tarragon to pea puree.

In a lightly oiled lasagna pan, add half the tomato sauce. Add a sheet of matzo flat as if it were a noodle. Layer on ricotta mixture, then add another sheet of matzo.

Add leeks on this and cover with matzo.

Add pea puree and sprinkle over half of parmesan. Add matzo, the rest of the tomato sauce and more cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Amy Wertheim’s Matzo Brei

“The wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can add anything to it: fruits, veggies, meat, or eat it just plain. My father, Larry, who passed away in November of 2005, taught me how to make it.”

For every two matzos, you need one beaten egg. (Two matzos per person.)

This recipe will feed four and is easily increased. Ratio: 2 matzos to 1 egg.

8 matzos broken into small pieces

4 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 rounded teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 pats butter

In a large bowl, break the matzo into small pieces and add enough cold water to the bowl to cover the matzo. Put a plate on top of the bowl to weigh the matzo down. Let it soak for 10 minutes.

Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in a small glass bowl.

In a large skillet, add canola oil and butter and melt over medium flame.

Drain the matzo thoroughly and push out any excess water with the back of a large serving spoon. Pour the beaten eggs over the matzo and mix until the matzo is coated with egg.

Transfer the mixture into the heated pan and flatten with spatula. Let the mixture get crisp (about 8 minutes). Divide into fours with the spatula, and flip each quarter. Continue frying for another 5-7 minutes. Serve warm with butter, cinnamon and sugar.

For a fruit, meat or veggie brei, add your favorite ingredients to the mixture and prepare as above.

It can be served with jam, salsa or any condiment you desire.

Barbara Issak’s Matzo Pizza

“As for creative things to do with matzo, my favorite thing is matzo pizza. My second favorite is what we call ‘Passover macaroni and cheese’ but it uses matzo instead of macaroni, since we can’t eat regular macaroni on Passover.”

Place 1 sheet of regular or whole wheat matzo on an aluminum foil-covered toaster-oven tray. Egg matzo tastes good, but is too soggy, whereas regular and whole wheat are crunchier, so they make a better matzo pizza.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on top of the sheet of matzo. Sprinkle basil, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning — whatever you like on regular pizza.

Cover with slices of muenster cheese. You can also use shredded mozzarella, but my family uses muenster cheese.

Place in toaster oven and toast on medium setting until cheese melts and begins to brown slightly.

Remove from aluminum foil with care and enjoy!

Barbara Issak’s Passover “Macaroni” And Cheese

“I’m not sure of the exact measurements. Just eyeball it, and whatever you do will be fine!”

12 ounces of matzo farfel (3/4 of a pound box)

2 beaten eggs

4 ounces of low-fat milk

Half a stick of butter or margarine, melted in microwave

16-ounce container of low-fat cottage cheese

8-ounce container of reduced fat sour cream

16 ounces of American cheese cut up into small pieces so it can melt, or use shredded cheese

Paprika and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Empty matzo farfel into a large mixing bowl. Beat eggs in another bowl and add to matzo farfel. Add milk, melted margarine, cottage cheese and sour cream. Reserve some American cheese to sprinkle on top of finished casserole later, and add the rest of the American cheese now. Sprinkle with pepper and paprika, and mix well.

Spray a glass, oven-safe oblong baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle top lightly with reserved American cheese and paprika. Bake in 375-degree oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. My family likes “well-done,” which takes about 30 minutes.

Cool slightly before serving.

Donna Smith’s Passover Rolls

2 cups matzo meal

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup oil

4 eggs

Combine matzo meal, salt and sugar. Bring oil and water to a boil. Add to matzo meal mixture and mix well. Beat in eggs one at a time. Allow to stand 15 minutes. With oiled hands, shape into rolls. Place on cookie sheet sprayed with Pam or a little oil. Bake 50 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 8-10 rolls, depending on size.

Michele Lynn’s Matzo Brei

“Yes, I am bragging, but sometimes I make a batch of matzo brei and I feel it comes out as the best I’ve ever had. Really simple, rich and buttery.”

1/2 stick unsalted butter

3 eggs beaten

8 pieces of matzo

salt to taste

Fruit preserves (optional)

Melt butter in a very large skillet. There should be enough to give a very heavy coating (ptfe coating services) to the pan. Add more butter if needed.

Heat until it sizzles, but don’t brown the butter.

Take each sheet of matzo, and run each one under cold water until it’s a little soft but still firm. Place in bowl and crumble it.

Add beaten egg to matzo, mix, and let soak no more then 3 minutes.

Pour matzo mixture into the hot pan. Slightly arrange in the pan so there aren’t huge piles.

Once it starts to firm, take your spatula and cut into the mix to move it around to breathe. This helps with the crispiness.

Cook for about 4 minutes until golden, then flip it over.

Take your spatula again and break it up in the pan. Cook until golden, sprinkle with salt and/or preserves, and serve.

Michele Lynn’s Variation On Matzo Brei

“Sometimes I make this one version for DH. He loves it but I don’t. It’s good, but my favorite is the first one.”

Based on the above, saute onions until golden in the melted butter before adding the matzo. Add smoked salmon to the matzo mixture right before it’s been flipped in the above recipe. Then, when you flip it, break it up and right before it’s ready, mix in about 6 ounces or so of cream cheese. Just dollop it around. And serve.

Michele Saks’ Chocolate Matzo Crunch

“I am happy to share my family’s favorite recipes. I always enjoys reading the recipes in the Wednesday paper.”

5 sheets unsalted matzo

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Big pinch sea salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup toasted sliced almonds (optional)

Line a rimmed baking sheet (approximately 11 inches by 17 inches) completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges. Cover the foil with a sheet of parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line the bottom of the sheet with matzo, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.

In a 3- to 4-quart heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add vanilla and pour over matzo, spreading with a heat-proof spatula.

Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up, but check every once in a while to make sure it’s not burning. If it is burning in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325, then put back in the oven.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.

If you wish, sprinkle with toasted almonds (or another favorite nut, toasted and coarsely chopped), a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, or roasted cocoa nibs.

Let cool completely, then break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. It should keep well for about one week.

Michele Saks’ Popovers And Pesach Rolls

“Since we can’t have bread, these are the substitutes we use.”

Popovers

1 1/2 cups water

4 eggs

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup matzo meal

Mix all ingredients together. Add matzo meal last. Bake in muffin cups at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Pesach Rolls

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup matzo meal

3 eggs

Bring water, oil, sugar and salt to a boil. Add matzo meal gradually. When thick, remove from flame.

Add 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each egg. Make balls (a little larger than a golf ball) and put on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake 30-50 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 12 rolls.

Debra Kamerman (more recipes on her blog at www.debsdelicacies.com):

“I have a few recipes, but what I do with matzo that’s a bit more fun and creative is to make placecards for the seder. I break sheets of matzo in half (there’s a secret to doing it without making crumbs: lightly brush a thin line of water down the center ‘seam’ on both sides, leave for a few seconds and voila!). Then with melted chocolate in a small zip-top bag, I pipe names on the front, and coat with chocolate or drizzle designs on the back. Let it dry on each side before doing the other. Cute and can be eaten for dessert!

“One of my favorite recipes (not for a seder meal, but for a lunch or dinner during Passover) is spinach cheese matzo lasagna (not published on the blog yet).”

Deb’s Spinach Cheese Matzo Lasagna

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely diced onion

2 minced garlic cloves

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

16 ounces cottage cheese (creamed style preferably, not fat-free)

2 cups whole milk (2 percent OK, not fat-free)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled fine

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

6 matzos

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium heat.

Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add onion and garlic to spinach.

Stir together cottage cheese, eggs, milk and feta cheese. Reserve 1/2 cup. Mix the rest of the cheese mixture with the spinach until well combined.

Grease well a 13-inch by 9-inch square pan. Fit matzo in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.

Pour half of the spinach mixture over it. Sprinkle with one-third of the mozzarella cheese. Cover with another layer of matzo. Pour on other half of spinach. Sprinkle over one-third of mozzarella. Cover with last layer of matzo. Pour over reserved milk mixture. Sprinkle with last third of mozzarella cheese.

Bake uncovered 1 hour. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.

Mary Adler’s Matzo Shepherd’s Pie

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 package Goodman’s onion soup mix

1 can tomato paste

1 tablespoon potato starch (if needed)

pinch of salt and pepper

1 to 1 1/2 cups water

6 to 8 sheets matzo

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch by 12-inch pan. Then slightly wet the sheets of matzo. Gently line the pan with the wet matzo. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan; lightly brown the ground beef. Drain excess fat from the pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until light brown and soft. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add in onion soup mix and water. When mixture comes to a slight boil, turn heat to a simmer and stir in tomato paste. You may have to add additional water if mixture gets too thick; if sauce won’t thicken, add some potato starch. Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until thickened.

Pour mixture into pan lined with matzo. Again, take matzo and wet slightly. Top the mixture with the remaining matzo and brush top of matzo with egg mixture. Bake for 10 minutes and then put under broiler until the top is brown and crisp. Enjoy!

Mary Adler’s Passover Mandel Bread

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

6 ounces Passover chocolate, or chips

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

2 3/4 cup matzo cake meal

3/4 cup matzo meal

3/4 cup potato starch

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the oil with eggs until creamy and well blended. Add the sugar. Mix until smooth. Add the chocolate chips and nuts. Sift the cake meal, matzo meal, potato starch and salt. Fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture. Mix thoroughly. Form into 1 or 2 loaves on a greased baking sheet or parchment paper, about 3 inches wide. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Slice the loaves into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces. Put back on baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place sliced mandel bread back in warm oven for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Hinda Bodinger’ Matzo Lasagna

“I saw that you were collecting Passover recipes. Here is one I put together for our temple’s women’s seder last week. I used bits and pieces from several different recipes that I found online, plus what I know I like. It was really good! As with any lasagna recipe, you can be very flexible with both ingredients and amounts. I would encourage you to use the freshest and, wherever possible, organic ingredients. It really makes a difference.”

At least 4 cups of tomato pasta sauce (freshly made if possible, although a good sauce from the jar is fine)

1 box of regular matzo (I found matzo made with organic wheat in my regular grocery store)

Rinse each square of matzo in water as you use it. No need to soak.

1 pound bag frozen, chopped organic spinach, thawed

1 pound ricotta cheese (if not organic, then at least with no growth hormones)

1 egg (farm fresh; indoor farmers markets going on all winter around Westchester)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese (infinitely better if fresh, not packaged)

2 pounds shredded mozzarella cheese (fresh, local, organic = better tasting!)

Roasted vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc.)

1/2 cup water

I also chopped up some fresh basil, cilantro and fresh arugula to include in one of my sauce layers, along with about 5 cloves of lightly sautéed garlic.

Spoon about a cup of the tomato sauce to form a thin layer on the bottom of a lasagna pan.

Cover with a layer of gently moistened matzo, breaking to fit without overlapping

Squeeze spinach dry and in a medium size bowl, mix with ricotta cheese, the egg and the garlic powder.

Place the spinach mixture evenly on the matzo.

Spoon on another layer of the tomato sauce.

Cover with a generous sprinkling of the parmesan, followed by the mozzarella.

Next, a layer of moistened matzo.

Then, a layer of roasted vegetables (no shame in picking up a carton of the ones you like best from your local salad bar or favorite deli if you don’t have time to roast them yourself)

Cover with sauce, parmesan cheese and mozzarella.

You can add about 1/2 cup of water to the uncooked lasagna at this point.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 50-60 minutes.

You can remove the foil for the last 10 minutes.

Can be made in advance, cooled and frozen, or just made in advance, refrigerated and reheated in the oven.

Hinda Bodinger’s Outrageously Excellent Chocolate Macaroons

“This recipe is from the ‘Rosie’s Bakery All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book,’ by Judy Rosenberg, printed in 1991 by Workman Publishing. (Great cookbook and a gift from Dolores JiJi, who was Rosie’s college friend in Berkeley!)

“The author writes: ‘The recipe for these macaroons comes from the archives of Leah Winograd, erstwhile caterer of bar mitzvahs, baker extraordinaire and mother of my partner Eliot. Bored with the usual Passover fare, she substitutes these for the occasion, though I like to make them year-round. They have a thin outer crust and a chewy inside.’ ”

From Hinda: “These are amazing. You will never eat them from the can again! Enjoy!”

8 ounces semisweet chocolate

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

4 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, or grease them lightly with butter or vegetable oil.

Melt both chocolates in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water, then cool the chocolate to tepid.

Beat the egg whites in a medium-size mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until frothy, about 30 seconds.

Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is the consistency of marshmallow fluff, about 30 seconds more.

Blend in the vanilla, then fold in the melted chocolate, then the coconut.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough about 1 1/2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake the macaroons until a light crust forms on the outside, about 13 minutes. (Be careful not to overcook them!) Cool on the cookie sheet or remove the macaroons to a cooling rack.

Yield: About 24 macaroons.

Posted on Small Bites by a reader named Randy:

Grandma Winnie’s Matzo Kugel

Dr. Gaellon

Just like Grandma made for Passover every year.

Serves 15.

8 eggs

4 tablespoons rendered chicken fat

1 cup raisins

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 pinch salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 apples, peeled, cored and diced

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup sugar

16 to 18 sheets matzo

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 13 by 9 baking pan with non-stick spray.

Mix everything except matzos together in a large bowl. (Reserve a little cinnamon and sugar for the end.)

Working 2 to 3 sheets at a time, hold matzos under running water until they soften. Break into large pieces, about 2 by 2 inches, and add to bowl. Mix gently to coat matzos without breaking them up any further.

Spread mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle with reserved cinnamon and sugar. Bake 50-60 minutes.

Matzo Kugel

By: Dr. Gaellon

From Mom’s cookbook. For Passover and year-round. Use chicken fat (schmaltz) if serving with meat, margarine if serving with dairy.

Serves 16.

10 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 apples, peeled, cored and grated

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1/2 cup raisins

18 sheets matzos

2 tablespoons margarine or rendered chicken fat

Combine eggs, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Add apples and raisins.

Hold each sheet of matzo under running water until it gets soggy and soft. Break into pieces 1 to 2 inches square and drop into bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly. Pour into 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Dot top with margarine or chicken fat.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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