Post-Passover Palate



Ah, Pesach! At first the matzah delights us with its spiritual symbolism and its culinary versatility: farfel, cake meal, matzah brei and more. But by the end of Pesach, we call out “Dayenu!” Enough with the matzoh. Time to return to our leavened life and cleanse our palate so that next spring our bellies pine for matzah.

But Pesach awakens another appetite for me: the hunger for tradition. Last week, a real “oldie but goodie” caught my eye at Seven Mile Market: gribenes — crispy chicken “crackles.” To make gribenes, simply slice excess raw chicken skin into small pieces, fry them until brown and crispy; then fry diced onions, and toss it all with salt and pepper.

Popular with Ashkenazi Jews, gribenes is often mentioned in old stories. It probably fell out of favor due to our emphasis on low-fat foods, but as in all things, try moderation. You can find gribenes recipes and videos online. Eat it as a snack, or serve it as a side dish with rye bread or challah. In the South, Jews add gribenes to jambalaya in place of shrimp. A new twist is serving sides of gribenes with frozen vodka — gribenes shooters. Here are some of my favorite post-Passover, nontraditional recipes. Enjoy, but don’t forget to add a little gribenes to your life. A little tradition — or a bissel schmaltz — couldn’t hurt.

Vegetable Paella

Rolled Stuffed Eggplant

Chocolate Pepsi Cake


Tips & Tricks
• Go easy on flour when rolling pastry. Just use enough to keep dough sticking. Too much will make dough tough and dry.

• Score an entire eggplant from top to bottom with a fork. This makes the skin tender.

• The edge of a serrated grapefruit spoon easily grabs elusive bits of eggshell.


Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Pesach Egg-citement

032715_food_ilene_amaretto-cookiesMy family used to joke that whether you identify yourself as Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or any other variety of Judaism, on Passover we all become gastronomical Jews!

Food is definitely the main event at Passover, and whether you are preparing an entire Seder or only one dish to contribute to a larger meal, eggs can be your best friend. The roasted egg on the Seder plate symbolizes the sacrifice that was offered in the days of the Second Temple. And eggs in general remind us of the “circle of life” and new beginnings. No matter how you connect the egg spiritually to the Seder, they are the rock stars of Pesach to me.

You’ll notice more chefs topping poached eggs on sandwiches, salads and entrees. If you can get farm fresh eggs, do it. They are well worth the difference in cost, especially for your matzo brei recipes. Farm fresh eggs are available at farmers’ markets.

Some cooks go the traditional route and serve whole hard-boiled eggs, but there are many options. A friend of mine scoops out the yolks and then stuffs each half with egg salad. Others serve different types of deviled eggs with mini matzah crackers.

My newest addition for gefilte fish is “marbling” three kinds of defrosted frozen fish (one salmon and two plain that I season with different herbs) in a loaf pan. The results are beautiful slices for each serving. Just place globs of each fish in the loaf pan before baking. Yum.

My favorite new Passover cookbook is “The New Passover Menu” by Paula Shoyer. I have been trying many of the recipes and really loved the Peruvian Roasted Chicken with Salsa Verde. I am not a cilantro fan, but I used parsley instead. It was fantastic. She has already revolutionized Kosher baking with her previous book, “The Kosher Baker.” Shoyer lives in Maryland with her husband and four kids. In this unique book, Shoyer organizes the recipes into eight menus — one for each night of Passover. She also gives daily lunch recipes. The eight different menus include the Updated Ashkenazic Seder Menu, the International Seder Menu, the Italian Vegetarian Menu and four more. Her recipe for Banana Haroset is gluten free and makes enough for 25 portions. This is definitely a Passover cookbook for the 21st century — and that’s no yolk!




Beating the ‘Matzah Diet’ Your holiday Haggadah to staying healthy during Passover

Passover is the time of the year when Jews celebrate our freedom from slavery in Egypt. But the endless monotony of eggs, potatoes and matzah for eight days may leave you feeling like a slave to your chametz-free diet.

However, the avoidance of bread and certain grains and legumes doesn’t have to limit the wealth of healthy and nutritious options available to you during this festive time. Consider this your primer to managing the stresses of Passover eating — your Haggadah to staying healthy throughout Passover while still enjoying family, friends and holiday festivities. Who knows? You may even find yourself making an exodus from your current pant size!

Before the Seder
Passover marks the return of springtime, and what better way to welcome back the warm weather than to peruse your local farmer’s market for the bountiful spring offerings such as asparagus, sugar snap peas and artichokes to make the centerpiece of your Seder meal.

If you’re a guest at someone else’s Seder, offer to help out by contributing a healthy dish. Your host will appreciate the gesture and you benefit from knowing there is at least one healthy option at the Seder table.

The Seder itself is a marathon, not a sprint, and like any athlete, you need to prepare beforehand. As it may be a while before you actually sit down to the meal, eating a snack with protein and fiber prior to the meal can stave off your hunger and help you make more nutritious choices at the main event. Some smart snack choices include Greek yogurt with blueberries or raw veggies with a small handful of almonds.

During the Seder
Rather than plain matzah, opt for whole wheat or spelt matzah, which are higher in fiber content. Fiber keeps you more satiated and helps relieve those digestive issues that often plague us during Passover.

When it comes to your meal, avoid black and white thinking; it’s perfectly okay to enjoy some of the foods that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to eat any other time of year. Try to fill your plate up with mostly nutritious options such as veggie-based dishes and lean meat or fish, and pick a few small portions of more indulgent dishes that you love. If you avoid feeling deprived of your favorite foods, you will be much less likely to overeat and feel much more satisfied with your meal overall.

Pace yourself with the vino! Four glasses of wine at the Seder is a lot. Not only does wine impair your judgment toward making healthier choices, it also adds up those liquid calories quickly. Instead, switch to half glasses of wine. Maximize the health benefits by opting for red wine, which contains the antioxidant resveratrol. Studies have demonstrated this antioxidant may promote heart health and decrease stroke risk.

After the Seder and beyond
While tradition may dictate that we recline at our Seder table, there’s nothing wrong with starting your own active family tradition. Try taking a walk after the Seder meal or join your kids in the search for the afikomen.

As for the rest of the holiday, your best bet for sticking to a nutritious diet is experimenting with fresh veggies and fruits as the center of your meal. This will also help you to regulate your digestion, which is a common symptom of the “matzah diet.” Try to avoid those prepackaged special Passover foods and instead, get creative with your meals. Below you will find a few recipes to help get you started.

Beef and quinoa meatballs

Cinnamon-Dusted spaghetti squash kugel with dates, apples and walnuts

Purim Change of Pace Choose chocolate as a flavored dough

Triple chocolate hamantaschen would make a wonderful treat in coffee-themed Purim baskets.

Triple chocolate hamantaschen would make a wonderful treat in coffee-themed Purim baskets.

Hamantaschen talk is always about the filling: prune, poppy, apricot and strawberry, just to name a few favorites. I love being creative with the fillings, but this year I wanted to change up things with a flavored dough rather than just a fun filling. And what better ingredient to include than chocolate.

Once you have made your chocolate dough, you can still be creative with the fillings, although I recommend two combinations: triple chocolate, which is filled with nutella and drizzled with white chocolate, and chocolate mocha. You could also try filling the chocolate dough with raspberry jam, peanut butter or even halvah.

The key to making and working with this dough successfully is making it several hours in advance — even a day or two — so that it is properly chilled. It will feel sticky, so add flour as you roll it out to make sure it holds its shape.

Most hamantaschen bakers know that one of the keys to making a cookie that doesn’t fall apart during the baking is to pinch the three points very carefully. Another tip is to lay out all the folded and filled cookies on a baking sheet and then pop them into the freezer for five to 10 minutes before baking. Chilled cookie dough simply bakes better.

If you enjoy the custom of handing out mishloach manot, or Purim baskets, in your community, these chocolate hamantaschen would go great with a coffee-themed package: include a small bag of high-quality coffee, a little bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans and the hamantaschen inside a big mug.

Triple chocolate hamantaschen


Hearty Delights Five interesting foods to explore on date night

020615_valentinesWhether you live for culinary adventure or unfamiliar items on your plate make you nervous, trying new foods is a worthwhile endeavor. But even avid foodies don’t have the time to try everything.

So how can you prioritize your food bucket list?

Enter “1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die,” a new book that presents the globe’s must-have foods into one master list of the best dishes, ingredients, restaurants, markets, books and movies that everyone should experience.

To whet your appetite, author Mimi Sheraton, former New York Times restaurant critic and award-winning cookbook author, shares five food must-haves originating from five regions of the world. Try any of these the next time you go out:


White Asparagus

Egg Cream




Holiday Lessons Keeping the old while bringing in the new

012315_holiday_lessons_blueberry_cakeSome things never change, and I’m so glad. From the mouth-watering brisket at Edmart Deli to Rosendorf’s challahs, most Baltimore Jews go back to their traditional buying habits, even if they had indulged in “new” cuisine over the New Year. I spend my food shopping days purposely seeking out new things. But I forgot the old saying that “everything old is new again.” I hadn’t been to the Knish Shop in decades, but someone mentioned they have great sushi and cookies. And their chocolate chip cookies are as good, if not better, than my own homemade.

It’s hard to find fault with any kosher dishes at David Chu’s, especially its eggplant and sushi selections. And the service is A-plus. I’ve never been to Serengeti’s, although I hear it is wonderful. I’m just glad that finally Baltimore has decent kosher choices when dining out or in. I’m awaiting a kosher Mexican restaurant with some real authentic dishes.

So what are we expecting as far as 2015 food trends? Roasted beets, pears and duck recipes will become much more popular as will pulled brisket sandwiches. California, as usual, is ahead of us. When visiting my sister in December, we went to a favorite restaurant and found a new item on the menu, brisket sliders — pulled brisket served with a choice of chipotle-cherry or habanero-peach barbeque sauce on the side. When making your own, try some spice rubs, which can flavor and tenderize many cuts of meat.

Most importantly, presentation, even in an ordinary recipe, can enhance any Shabbat table. Here are a few new twists I discovered during the holidays.

Orange Marinated Olives

Sephardic Chopped Salad Drizzle

Fresh Blueberry Cake With Crumb Topping


Making Thanksgiving Jewish

112114_foodHow do we make Thanksgiving Jewish? Many scholars believe that the secular American holiday, first celebrated in 1621 by the pilgrims, was deliberately modeled on Sukkot. There are myriad ways to make the meal kosher and also stretch the food to enjoy through Shabbos. In addition to roasting one whole turkey, make one large turkey breast, too. This provides plenty for Shabbat meals. Who doesn’t want to keep Thanksgiving going? On Shabbat, sprinkle some fresh cranberries around the turkey breast or in your regular Shabbat stuffing. Ever hear of a Tzimmes cake? I tweaked the recipe below to add another touch of delicious Yiddishkeit to the Thanksgiving table. Simply search online for the phrase “Kosher Thanksgiving recipes,” and you will find numerous links to sites (such as The Kosher Channel) that give a veritable cornucopia of kosher Thanksgiving ideas.

As for annual pumpkin pie, if your filling shrinks upon cooling, disguise it: Sprinkle edges with chopped pecans, crushed gingersnaps or piped whipped cream around the edge. I think the pilgrims would have loved pareve pumpkin pie!

Tips & Tricks

  • When stuffing a turkey, try sealing the opening with a small raw potato.
  • Unsalted butter can be stored in the freezer indefinitely if it is wrapped and sealed airtight.
  • Just before carving a turkey, carefully remove the skin in  pieces as large as possible. Cover the carved turkey with pan juices and the roasted skin to help it stay moist and warm.

  • Click below to view the recipes:

    A Happy Holiday

    Making the holiday  cooking experience even more fun, Ilene Spector and her grandson made this memorable — and tasty — edible sukkah. (David Stuck)

    Making the holiday cooking experience even more fun, Ilene Spector and her grandson made this memorable — and tasty — edible sukkah. (David Stuck)

    Sukkot celebrates the joy of the late summer harvest and is often thought of as the Jewish Thanksgiving. However, at this holiday, where we eat is as meaningful as what we eat.

    Through the sukkahs we simulate the experience of the Exodus from Egypt. Traveling to the Promised Land for 40 years through the desert, the fleeing children of Israel created temporary housing or huts. By living in these temporary sukkahs, we get a sense of our dependence on nature — and our inter-dependence of family, friends and neighbors.

    One of the rituals performed each day in the sukkah is holding four species of vegetation in one’s hands and lifting them in six directions: east, west, north, south, up and down. This reflects our belief that God is everywhere, and there is no place that God is not present.

    Eating in the sukkah is the essence of the holiday. Even the composition of food holds metaphors. For example, “stuffed” recipes (such as cabbage, eggplants and tomatoes) remind us of being surrounded in a cozy dwelling. Decorate your table with pomegranates and bottles of wine. I even made a small edible sukkah with my grandson. A cornucopia should overflow with fruits, vegetables, nut and candies. Your sukkah should always be ready for guests.

    Get out your Crock-Pot(s) for hearty soups and cholent. Some people decorate sukkahs quite elaborately. Yes, I have seen chandeliers. But there are other more simple options, such as using children’s drawings and photos of Israel. This is a happy holiday ending with Simchat Torah, marking the end of the Torah reading and the beginning — the circle of life. Here are some recipes to add delicious tastes and smells to your sukkah.


    Rolled Stuffed Eggplant

    Scalloped Tomatoes

    Light Sweet Potatoes With Apples


    Tips & Tricks
    • Spruce up wilted vegetables with a “splash” of plain vinegar.
    • Royal icing: 1 egg white and 1 to 2 cups sifted 10X sugar. Beat on high to a “glue” consistency.
    • Use a lot of fresh aromatic herbs, such as fresh rosemary and basil, to scent your sukkah table.

    Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

    Hersh’s and Charmery Make Ice Cream Magic

    he sundae contained a sweet tomato blondie, ricotta ice cream, basil chocolate sauce and nut brittle.

    The sundae contained a sweet tomato blondie, ricotta ice cream, basil chocolate sauce and nut brittle.

    Hampden handcrafted ice cream shop The Charmery is no stranger to unusual ice cream flavors. Old Bay Caramel, Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Swirl, Chinese Food and a Movie (which features buttered popcorn and chocolate covered fortune cookies) and Mango Lassi have graced the menu, which is constantly changing.

    “My friends and employees are used to us doing crazy things,” said co-owner and “master creamer” David Alima, who owns The Charmery with his wife, Laura.

    With that mentality came yet another unlikely mash-up of flavors. Alima joined forces with Josh Hershkovitz, chef and co-owner of Hersh’s in South Baltimore, to make a take on a Caprese salad.

    The sundae was available for one night only, on Tuesday, Sept. 9. It was the second sundae in The Charmery’s guest chef series, the first of which featured a Heath Bar Bread Pudding sundae with Chad Gauss from The Food Market.

    To arrive at the final product, Hershkovitz and Alima did a lot of brainstorming. It started with Hersh’s house-made ricotta cheese.

    “We thought it would go well with a lot of different things, and so we decided to do a blondie,” said Hershkovitz, whose restaurant features pizza and Italian food. “But instead of doing it traditionally, we pulled back a little bit on the brown butter and added some of the tomato paste that we make at the restaurant inside.”

    The ricotta comes in with the ice cream.

    “We took about three-and-a-half pounds of the cheese and put it in our ice cream, and we did a little bourbon and a little Tahitian vanilla,” Alima said. “Then we took our chocolate sauce and infused some fresh basil in it.” It’s all topped off with a nut brittle.

    Of course, when trying to make a salad-inspired sundae, at least one of the creators had some trepidation.

    “When people approach me with their idea I’m always like, ‘Phew, you know we’re an ice cream shop here?

    Josh Hershkovitz (left), co-owner  and chef at Hersh’s, and David Alima, co-owner of The Charmery, make a Caprese salad-inspired sundae.

    Josh Hershkovitz (left), co-owner and chef at Hersh’s, and David Alima, co-owner of The Charmery, make a Caprese salad-inspired sundae.

    I don’t know how that’s going to work,’” Alima said. “And slowly it kind of builds and builds and builds into this kind of thing that’s delicious and something I could never have thought of on my own.”

    Customers who tried the sundae called it “interesting” and like something they’ve never had before, and were happy with their dessert purchases.

    “I was expecting more of an oddball thing, but it’s delicious,” said Patrick Boyle.

    “It’s crazy how well it all goes together,” said Soraya Bailey.

    The night not only offered a one-time sundae, but a dollar from each sundae sold was donated to Seeds of Peace, the charity of Hershkovitz’s choice. The contents of the night’s tip jar were also donated to the charity.

    Seeds of Peace engages young leaders from regions of conflict with various programming in hopes of achieving lasting peace.

    “A few of the camps have Israeli and Palestinian kids staying in bunks together,” Hershkovitz said. “They play sports and what not, but they sit down and really start talking about things and try to get past some of the stereotypes they have of each other and really start dealing with ‘how do we make this a more livable world?’ … It seems so hopeful.”

    Another recent charitable effort landed Hersh’s in the national spotlight. After Ray Rice was cut from the  Ravens on Monday, Sept. 8, amid a domestic violence scandal, Hersh’s offered a free pizza and a $2.70 donation to House of Ruth for every Ray Rice jersey brought to the restaurant that week. Customers brought in about 50 jerseys on Monday, Hershkovitz said, and its Facebook page grew from 1,400 likes to nearly 2,600 as of press time. Hershkovitz, who was wearing purple Nikes at The Charmery event, was also trying to get the Ravens to donate directly to House of Ruth for Hersh’s collected jerseys once the team announced it was instituting its own buy-back program.

    On Thursday, Hersh’s announced via its Facebook page, where the trade-in was first announced, that it would not be talking to the media about the jerseys anymore because of threats to the restaurant and expressed regret that “all of the media attention turned this story into a circus.”

    “We are Ravens fans and season ticket holders at Hersh’s, and we found the news on Monday terribly troubling,” the Facebook statement said. “While we appreciate reasonable statements of all kinds, whether in agreement with our actions or not, we are highly troubled by the profanity and threats of physical violence we have received via Facebook and via telephone calls to the restaurant.”

    As for The Charmery, Alima is scouting other guest chefs, thinking about bringing some tea flavors into his shop and debating bringing back last year’s Apples and Honey ice cream for Rosh Hashanah.

    “We’re always trying to do some new, different things,” he said.

    The ‘Wow’ Factor

    Honey-glazed Carrots (©

    Honey-glazed Carrots (©

    The high holidays are a time when I channel my inner Tevye. He starts singing softly in the back of my mind in late August, but as September nears, his plea is loud and clear: “Tradition! Tradition!”

    Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur food customs have evolved over the years, but it is safe to say that most menus will include chicken soup, gefilte fish, brisket, honey and apples and conclude after Yom Kippur with a festive dairy meal. My mission in cooking is to find the new and unique, so my inner Tevye and I struggle at this time of year. Usually I manage to find a way to tweak tradition enough to satisfy us both. Here are my 2014 ideas for you to use as is — or adapt to your own traditions.

    All these foods symbolize our hopes and prayers for the coming year. For example, the Aramaic word for dates is tamri. We eat dates not only because they are sweet for a sweet year, but also because tamri sounds like sheyitamu, the word for “removing enemies from our midst.” With the current situation in Israel, once again a tradition is contemporary. There is a special prayer that is said after eating dates: “May it be your will, Lord our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that there come an end to our enemies, haters and those who wish evil on us.” I will serve each person a date and say this prayer all together as a group.

    On a lighter note, here are great ways to serve honey and sweets. I take little shot glasses and put about one inch of honey into each. Then I place small skewered squares of challah and apple pieces sticking up in each glass. Or I make honey cups for each guest out of scooped-out small apples that have been rubbed with lemon juice to keep from turning dark. Pass the sliced apples for dipping.

    Presentation can make all the difference. Here’s a real “wow” factor I’m using and can be done way before the holidays: I took two of the biggest, widest fresh carrots I could find. I peeled and cut them into large pieces and simmered them in water that had been seasoned with a little chicken bouillon until just soft. I then thickly sliced them on a diagonal with a sharp knife. I used my smallest Jewish star cookie cutter to make stars. I froze all the stars to use in my chicken soup and on top of my gefilte fish. I coarsely mashed leftover pieces to add to my chicken soup or matzo balls (no waste!).


    Noreen Gilletz’s Coke Brisket
    Honey-Glazed Carrots

    Bernice Schloss’ Easy Chicken
    Stacked Tomatoes & Cheese
    Light Ricotta Cheese Cheesecake


    Tips & Tricks
    • Chill wine quickly: Wrap the bottle in a wet kitchen towel before placing in the freezer. In 30 minutes you will achieve the perfect 50-degree drinking temperature. Release the frozen towel by placing briefly under warm water.

    • Caramelize sliced, cored apples or pears, unpeeled, to garnish the top of your honey or apple cake.

    • Reduce port wine to a syrup and glaze your favorite honey cake.

    • Never refrigerate honey.

    • Make your own house spread for Yom Kippur; mix lox pieces/bits with whipped cream cheese and add chopped fresh chives: cheaper, colorful and delicious!