The ProsenPeople

Creamsicle Macaroons: A New Passover Standard

Wednesday, March 09, 2016 | Permalink

Simone Miller is the founder of Zenbelly and, together with Jennifer Robins, co-author of The New Yiddish Kitchen: Gluten-Free and Paleo Kosher Recipes for the Holidays and Every Day. Jennifer and Simone are guest blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

In my family, macaroons are just as much of a requirement at the Passover seder as matzo. There may be less ceremony around the humble coconut cookie, but it’s a staple nonetheless.

The classic version—a sweet coconut cookie dipped in dark chocolate—is always a favorite. For a little variety, though, we love making this version: sweet coconut spiked with orange zest and vanilla extract. The result is a perfect macaroon—chewy in the center, crisp on the edges—that tastes strikingly close to a Creamsicle.

When adapting baked goods to be compliant with a grain-free, dairy-free lifestyle, there is often quite a lot of trial and error. Grain-free flours can’t be used 1:1 for wheat flour, so it often takes many, many attempts to get the recipe just right. But macaroons are another story: they’ll practically work exactly as written in out grandmother’s recipe book!

Macaroons are naturally grain-free, since they’re essentially a coconut meringue. The adaptations we made were more along the lines of the sugar, since classic macaroons are very sweet. This fresh update is lightly sweetened with honey, natural orange juice, and unsweetened coconut. The result is a cookie that’s just the perfect amount of sweetness to end your holiday meal. (And to keep them dairy-free, coconut milk is the perfect stand-in for sweetened condensed milk: it only adds more delightful coconut flavor and richness!)

Macaroons that taste like Creamsicles? What could be bad?

Recipe: Creamsicle Macaroons

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25–30 minutes
Makes 18 cookies

2 egg whites
12 ounces (340g) unsweetened shredded coconut
1 (14-ounce or 414 mL) can of full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup (60ml) honey
Zest of one orange (about ½ tablespoon, or 7mL)
1 tablespoon (15mL) orange juice
2 teaspoons (10mL) vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until medium peaks form.

In a large bowl, combine the shredded coconut, coconut milk, honey, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla and salt.

Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Using a small ice cream scoop with a lever, or two spoons, drop the mixture onto a cookie sheet, about 2 tablespoons (30mL) per cookie.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges. Allow them to cool before removing from the pan.

After battling with a variety of health problems, Simone Miller discovered she had food allergies, specifically a very serious sensitivity to gluten, prompting her to transform Zenbelly into one of the most respected gluten-free, paleo-style catering companies in the Bay-area.

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Modified Matzo Balls: A Gluten- and Grain-Free Spin on a Jewish Classic

Monday, March 07, 2016 | Permalink

Jennifer Robins is the voice being the popular food blog Predominantly Paleo and, together with Simone Miller, co-author of The New Yiddish Kitchen: Gluten-Free and Paleo Kosher Recipes for the Holidays and Every Day. Jennifer and Simone are guest blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

Floaters or sinkers, we can all agree that a good matzo ball is one of the keys to happiness. Everyone has a favorite recipe, whether it’s their great-grandmother’s recipe or a perfectly concocted hybrid of past and present. So why reinvent the wheel with so many loveable variations?

Well, if you can’t tolerate grain like many of us, then the traditional wheat-based matzo balls just aren’t happening.

Simone Miller and I wrote our cookbook The New Yiddish Kitchen because we were forced to give up grain-based foods, regardless of how much we loved them, or how many of them were part of recipes which had been passed down generations. We wanted to recreate some of these traditional Jewish foods, like matzo balls, to pay homage to both our taste buds and our family’s legacy.

Writing these recipes has been a way to reconnect with our Jewish history, filled with memories of learning to cook in our bubbes’ kitchens. And consequently, we’ve been able to bring back foods like chocolate babka, matzo, and even bagels, all made free of grain, gluten, and dairy. Our hope is that people who have had to sacrifice their favorite traditional Jewish foods will once again be able to reintroduce them to their tables—and, more importantly, enjoy them!

These matzo balls are made from a sweet potato base, perfect for anyone sensitive to nightshades and entirely gluten- and grain-free. Feel free to dress them up with extra dill, salt, pepper, or whatever your favorite matzo ball garnish happens to be. We’ve included three different matzo ball recipes in The New Yiddish Kitchen, so that there is one to suit every diet (and taste). And of course you’ll have to check out the grain-free bagels, but that’s another recipe for another time! Enjoy! L’chaim!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Matzo Balls

Makes 6 Servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

36 oz (1,080 ml) homemade or high quality store-bought chicken broth
Chopped carrots, celery and preferred herbs/seasonings (optional)
2 lbs (900 g) or 2 large Japanese sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
2 eggs
⅓ cup (60 g) potato starch
¼ cup (30 g) tapioca starch
3 tbsp (20 g) coconut oil
3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil, schmaltz, or avocado oil

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a stockpot over high heat. If you choose to add veggies and seasonings, place them in the broth at this time.

Next, combine the mashed potatoes, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, eggs, potato starch, tapioca starch, coconut our and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Using your hands, combine all the ingredients until you have a smooth dough.

Take a tablespoon (15 g) or two—depending on your preference—of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Drop it into the boiling broth and repeat until all of your matzo ball mix is used up.

Cover the stockpot and allow to cook on medium/high heat for 20 – 30 minutes, or until you are satisfied with your matzo balls’ texture. Serve hot!

After being diagnosed with several autoimmune conditions and chronic infections, including Lyme disease, Jennifer Robins turned to food for healing, removing grain, dairy and refined sugars. As a wife and mother of three, Jennifer hopes to instill healthy habits in her children now in hopes of creating wellness for a lifetime.

Remaining Russian Through Food

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 | Permalink
This week, Boris Fishman—the author of A Replacement Life, just released in paperback from HarperCollins
blogs for The Postscript on one of his favorite paragraphs in his book and the importance of food. 

The Postscript series is a special peek "behind the scenes" of a book. It's a juicy little extra something to add to a book club's discussion and a reader's understanding of how the book came together. 

To "host" Boris at your next book club meeting, request him through JBC Live Chat

One of my favorite passages in my debut novel, A Replacement Life— the story of a failed young writer who starts forging Holocaust- restitution claims for old Russian Jews in Brooklyn who have suffered, “but not in the exact way [they] need to have suffered in order to qualify” — appears on page 20 and has no verbs or adjectives; there isn’t even a complete sentence in it. It’s a list. I reproduce it here, along with the preceding paragraph for context. The young writer’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, has just passed away, and he makes his first return to south Brooklyn, where so many Russian-Americans live, in over a year — he has been trying to force his past out of his life — for her funeral and commemoration. (The first names in the first paragraph refer to the home aides that looked after his grandmother when she was ill.) 

Slava used to sit at one of these tables once a week, the cooking by a Berta or a Marina or a Tatiana, uniformly ambrosial, as if they all attended the same Soviet Culinary School No. 1. Stout women, preparing to grow outward even if they hadn’t reached thirty, in tights decorated with polka dots or rainbow splotches, the breasts falling from their sailor shirts, their shirts studded with rhinestones, their shirts that said Gabbana & Dulce.

Stewed eggplant; chicken steaks in egg batter; marinated peppers with buckwheat honey; herring under potatoes, beets, carrots, and mayonnaise; bow-tie pasta with kasha, caramelized onions, and garlic; ponchiki with mixed-fruit preserves; pickled cabbage; pickled eggplant; meat in aspic; beet salad with garlic and mayonnaise; kidney beans with walnuts; kharcho and solyanka; fried cauliflower; whitefish under stewed carrots; salmon soup; kidney beans with the walnuts swapped out for caramelized onions; sour cabbage with beef; pea soup with corn; vermicelli and fried onions.

I am often asked in what way I remain Russian more than a quarter of a century after my family left the Soviet Union, when I was nine. I feel no political kinship with the Soviet Union’s fallout republics (I was born in Belarus), and the one return visit I made, in 2000, excavated powerful sensory memories but left me with an equally powerful distaste for the lack of civility, paranoia, and xenophobia that continues to thrive there. So my answer tends to refer to the Russian literature that was my path back to my home culture after I’d spent a decade in America trying to forget it; the language, earthy and comic and supple and brusque; and the food. Is it because professional opportunity — not to mention other forms of personal expression, such as religious identity — was so much more circumscribed in the Soviet Union that so much more ceremony and ritual significance was given to meals and community? All I can say is that to this day, my family — its opportunities and self-expression circumscribed in America all the same, due to imperfect English, advanced age, and plain shyness — sits down to meals as to a great respite from the ordeals of the day. Great care is taken to prepare the meal, almost always at home, from scratch; it is pounced upon with an equally great hunger that sometimes feels spiritual more than alimentary. The food is gone in a third of the time it took to prepare. It’s not the French or Italian model. 

There may be another reason. Looking from America, Russian food feels like a paradox. (I am calling it “Russian” only as an economical shorthand; there is as much French as Central Asian influence in it, and Jewish, too, if buried — a Ukrainian Orthodox woman I know had been making kasha varnishkes for decades before she realized its provenance.) Industrial agriculture, with its reliance on chemicals and preservatives, was never practiced in the Soviet Union to the degree that it is in America; strawberries used to taste like strawberries there, and you could count on finding them for sale only in late summer. (Things have changed somewhat now, but in today’s Ukraine, for instance, Belarussian food products sell at a premium because Belarus avoids GMOs; products advertise this prominently. Isn’t that something? The Soviets were local and organic — and progressive on GMO usage and labeling — long before all this caught on in America.) But neither was health-consciousness a priority in the same way; when it wasn’t butter in the pan, it was sunflower oil, and lots of it. So, well-raised products cooked in the good stuff: Perhaps it’s no mystery why Russians love to eat. 

Because food is so important both to the novel and its author — so much so that, having finished my second novel, out from HarperCollins next year, I am contemplating a Ukrainian cookbook as my third project — I invite you to make it a part of your book club discussion of A Replacement Life. Cross-pollination is welcome: One club, in Knoxville, TN, fortified its discussion with vodka and lox. If there’s a Russian grocery store nearby, raid the shelves. And if you’re willing to try your own hand at a staple of the Russian table, I include a recipe for borshch from the woman whose cooking I want to highlight in the Ukrainian cookbook. I went down to south Brooklyn, where she looks after my grandfather, just last night, and made it together with her. You won’t regret the (not very taxing) effort. And in case it’s your discussion that needs fortification, I am also including a handful of discussion questions. Finally, I am available through the JBC Live Chat program to call or Skype into your book club if that would be of interest; you can reach me at 

Happy eating, reading, and talking: The Jewish national pastimes. 

Oksana’s Borshch 

The night before, boil three medium-size beets (anywhere from forty minutes to an hour and change depending on their size and age). Leave the skin on and refrigerate. This helps the beet keep its color and not blanch when it’s cooking the next day. 

You can make the soup with plain water, or ready-made stock, but you can also make your own — with chicken bones, meat on, or pork bones, ditto, or beef bones. In a 3L pot, cover the bones with 2L of water and bring to a boil. Once the stock is boiling and the surface has covered with fat skimmings from the meat, remove the bones, empty the pot of the liquid, and wash it out get rid of the film on the sides. Refill with 2L of water and return to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and slide the lid slightly off to prevent it from boiling too hard.

Day of: 
- Bring the stock to a boil, then lower to medium heat and slide the lid slightly off. 
- Peel three medium-size potatoes, and cube. 
- Peel one medium-size parsnip and dice into disks, halving the larger slices. 
- Wash and de-seed one jalapeno, and dice into tiny pieces. 
- Shred a quarter of a medium-size cabbage head. 
- Add all of it — they require the same cooking time — into the boiling pot, along with one nearly full tablespoon of salt. The soup stays at medium heat, lid slightly off. 

While vegetables are cooking (one hour): 
- Peel and grate two big carrots. 
- Peel and cube one medium-to-large onion. 
- Cover the bottom of a saute pan generously with oil (Oksana uses corn oil) 
- Add the onions and saute until they are golden-brown. 
- Add carrots and keep sauteing until they are cooked all the way. If you throw in carrot sooner, it will give off a lot of juice and the mixture will braise rather than saute. 
- Add a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste using a dry spoon. (Wet spoon will cause mold in the paste. To preserve tomato paste after opening a can, cover with oil.) 
- Press or grate two large garlic cloves into the soup 

- Skin the beets — if you run them under water, the skin should come off in your fingers. 
- Dice into relatively small pieces 

After the soup has been going for an hour: 
- A dusting of coriander and curry into the soup (Spices get tossed in with about 20% cooking time left. Otherwise, the flavor isn’t sharp.) - Slide the onion/carrot/tomato paste/garlic mixture into soup 
- Deglaze pan with water and add to soup 
- Add 1/2 tbsp. of Vegeta or salt to taste 
- Add the beets and turn heat to low. Add salt to taste. Does it need acidity? Options: Lemon, vinegar, the brine of pickled cabbage. (Oksana added 2 tbsp 4% vinegar.) 
- Add one teaspoon of white sugar. - Add a generous helping of dill. (Oksana’s was from the freezer.) 
- Press or grate two large heads of garlic into the soup. 
- Add a little bit more salt to taste — borshch always tastes like it needs salt the next day. 
- Turn the heat to high; at the first signs of boiling, shut it off or the beets will start to lose color. (When reheating, reheat only serving portions — not the entire pot.) 

Leave for the next day.

Boris Fishman was born in Belarus and immigrated to the United States at the age of nine. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, The London Review of Books, and other publications. He lives in New York. Just out in paperback, A Replacement Life is his first novel. It received a rave on the cover of The New York Times Book Review — “Is there room in American fiction for another brilliant young émigré writer? There had better be, because here he is. Boris Fishman’s first novel, ‘A Replacement Life,’ is bold, ambitious and wickedly smart... The only problem with this novel is that its covers are too close together... Undoubtedly, comparisons will be made — to Bellow and the Roths (Henry and Philip).” — and was selected by The New York Times as one of its 100 Notable Books of 2014, by Barnes & Noble for its Discover Great New Writers program and as a finalist for Jewish Book Council's Sami Rohr Prize.

My Storied Food

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 | Permalink
This week, Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer's Daughters, blogs for the JBC about a special (and delicious) offer for book clubs

When I was a girl, it was family lore that my Aunt Irene, when she cooked something awful, yelled, “It’s a loser!” to my Uncle Bobby as he walked in the house.  I’ve been known to come out with more than a few losers (like the time I served my new in-laws pie accidentally made with Borax instead of sugar. (Lesson learned—be careful how you decant) and I’ve made a few dishes that held an opium-like addiction, but it’s the stories behind how recipes evolve that fascinate me.

When I was newly married (nineteen!) my then-husband and I moved to a farm located between Binghamton and Ithaca, New York. His job was being a farm hand. Mine was reading, cooking, and gaining weight as quickly as possible. We were isolated. When the farmer’s son’s wife invited me for breakfast, I was ecstatic. Upon arrival, she offered me a 7&7, a Pop Tart, and a bowl of depression. Thus was shattered my Brooklyn girl idealization about life on a farm.

Christmas week, she invited me to a cookie exchange party. My excitement at having somewhere to go (a bit measured based on our Pop Tart breakfast) was high enough for me to spend my next weekly library visit foraging for the most interesting and exotic cookie recipe I could find.

The cookies I brought (recipe below) were everything I’d hoped. Complicated, sophisticated, delicious...and greeted with faces of horror. What were these lumpy brown things brought in by the Brooklyn Jew, which resembled nothing close to Christmas cookies? I handed out my Plain Jane bags, sans shiny ribbons curling down the sides. My New York style sweets might as well have been wearing little yarmulkes and speaking Yiddish for how much they stood out. All the other offerings were variations on a Christmas sugar cookie theme cut in the shapes of stars and Santa, and decorated (sparkles! red and green sugar! glittering gold balls!) with the skill of Rembrandtesque elves. 

My cookies looked like the homely third cousin your mother forced you to invite to the bar mitzvah. But they were the tastiest. Try them. Really.

Years ago, I began pulling together the recipes my daughters knew best, wanting, like many of you, to pass on my culinary secrets. As I copied from spattered cards, torn newspaper pages, and hand-written recipes, I realized the stories behind the recipes were as important as the food. Did my girls know their favorite brownies came from an ancient “found on the street” cookbook, circa my hippie days? How our Passover brisket had morphed into another family’s “Christmas meat?” Did they know which recipe might have sealed the deal with my soon-to-be-husband?

Pages piled up as I matched stories to recipes. From that was born The Comfort of Food a cookbook to share with book clubs, not for sale, but as a thank you for joining me in my first passion, reading, by offering another love. Food.

Any book club choosing The Comfort of Lies or The Murderer’s Daughters as their book club choice will receive a hard copy and electronic version of The Comfort of Food.  Simply go to the book club page on my website, and fill out the form.

French Lace Cookies
½ cup corn syrup

½ cup butter

⅔ cup brown sugar

1 cup flour, sifted

1 cup finely chopped nuts

Dark chocolate, melted (if desired)

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine corn syrup, butter, and sugar.  Bring to boil.  Combine flour and nuts w/liquid.  Place by teaspoon 4" apart and bake for 8-10 minutes.

To add a wonderful and delicious flourish, dip each cookie in melted dark chocolate when it comes from the oven. If you are talented and want to add a special flourish, roll the cookies while they are still warm, into a cylindrical shape and then when the rolled cookie is cool, dip it in the chocolate. If you are lazy, like I am, don’t worry about rolling; simply dip the flat cookies when they are cool. Lay on waxed paper while the chocolate hardens.

A Meal from The Tin Horse, Minus the Tsuris

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 | Permalink
This week, Janice Steinberg, the author of The Tin Horse blogs for The Postscript on what to cook for a Tin Horse-themed meal.  The Postscript series is a special peek "behind the scenes" of a book. It's a juicy little extra something to add to a book club's discussion and a reader's understanding of how the book came together. 

To "host" Janice at your next book club meeting, request her through JBC Live Chat

Thinking about creating a Tin Horse-themed meal, I realized that all of the eating scenes in the book are emotionally fraught. This is not, I guess, a big surprise in a novel about a Jewish immigrant family. Here's the menu - and where in the book the dishes come from:

The chicken and green beans are eaten at a Shabbat dinner on March 10, 1933. I know the date with certainty because I set my fictional dinner to coincide with the real-life Long Beach earthquake. As dinner is being prepared, cataclysms take place in Elaine Greenstein's family. Then, at 5:54 p.m., the earth ruptures. Fortunately, the epicenter is 20 miles away, no one is badly hurt, and the grateful survivors have "the liveliest Shabbat dinner in Greenstein family history."

Mama would have picked out her chicken live at the kosher poultry shop in Boyle Heights, the vibrant working class Jewish area of L.A. in the 1920s and 30s. You'll be glad to know that's not necessary. Just rub a whole chicken with a mixture of 1 T. olive oil, 1/2 t. cumin, and 1/4 t. cinnamon, pop a thyme branch in the cavity, and roast at 425° for an hour, basting once or twice. This recipe is from my cousin Meg Bortin's website, "The Everyday French Chef." For the green beans, this version includes lemon and almonds. Yum. 

At another tense dinner, the guest of honor is Cousin Mollie, who's come to Los Angeles to organize the dressmakers. Mollie has targeted factories owned by Jewish businessmen, Papa sides with the owners, and everyone gets drawn in - even Mama, though she first tries to defuse the conflict by offering more kugel. I wouldn't dream of suggesting a kugel recipe, since everyone has a favorite. But do make kugel part of your Tin Horse meal.

On to dessert!            

The inspiration for The Tin Horse was a minor character in the Raymond Chandler detective novel The Big Sleep. And Chandler's sleuth, Philip Marlowe, gets a role in my book. He offers to look for Elaine's runaway twin sister, and he wins Mama's approval by asking for a second slice of apple cake. This Nigella Lawson version, using almond flour, isn't what Mama would have made, but it was a hit when I baked it for my mom's 90th birthday, which fell during Passover, and it's so simple and tasty, it's become my go-to cake recipe. Plus, it's gluten-free.

The Tin Horse is very much a California story as well as a Jewish story, so of course I recommend California wines. I chose these lovely wines from Cambria in honor of the new book I'm working on, in which a character lives there.

Bite'avon! Enjoy the meal!

To read more from Janice, see her Visiting Scribe posts here

Can’t Think of a Recipe for Sukkot?

Thursday, October 01, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Need a new recipe for Sukkot? Check out these new cookbooks:

Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes (Laura Frankel)

In Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes, the encore to Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, Laura Frankel, a respected kosher chef and mother of three teenagers, shares more than 120 easy, delicious recipes for everyday and holiday meals– all conveniently prepared in the slow cooker-a staple of Sabbath cooking which Frankel affectionately calls her “Shabbat miracle machine.” Sukkot recipes include Italian Pumpkin Soup, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, Braciole, Wild Mushroom Stroganoff, and Poached Pears with Sweet Mascarpone.

The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat (Tal Ronnen)

A former meat-eater who found himself unfulfilled by standard vegan fare, Tal Ronnen set out to create his own diverse menu of hardy, delicious vegetarian dishes that the finest restaurants would be honored to serve…and any food lover would love to eat! As a result, The Conscious Cook is loaded with healthy, delicious, and supremely gratifying meatless recipes that even carnivores will want to sink their teeth into—a treasure trove of fine, healthy dining from the master chef who has reinvented vegan cooking.

Need something quicker? Download APPSolute Media’s Kosher Cookbook for iPhone & iPod Touch. Kosher Cookbook is designed for the on-the-go iPhone and iPod Touch users, offering hundreds of recipes, custom meal plans and the ability to create personalized shopping lists. Kosher Cookbook includes kosher culinary delights by well-respected gourmet and food writer Gloria Kobrin. The Kosher Cookbook application includes over 300 of her most popular recipes, adapted to suit kosher dietary rules. For just $4.99, it’s definitely worth a look! You can download it here.