Fish Cakes with Citrus “Tartar” Sauce

Citrus Fish Cakes

This recipe will make fish cakes for a crowd, and is a nice alternative to traditional gefilte fish. The citrus in this recipe lightens up the dish, taking away from the fried aspect of it, and would make it a great idea for a lunch meal! Before you start wondering where you’re going to get such small amounts of freshly squeezed juices, simply use the lemon and orange that you just zested!

Ingredients:

Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)*
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from 1 orange)*
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch sugar
Pinch cayenne

Fish Cakes:
2 pounds carp (or perch or bass) fillets, skinned and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley**
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
⅓ cup matzoh meal
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup or more oil (for frying)
1 tablespoon sea salt

* Click here to see my tips on zesting citrus.
** Click here to see how to properly clean fresh parsley.

Directions:

To make the sauce:
In medium bowl, stir together all ingredients. Cover and chill.

To make the fish cakes:
Line large baking sheet with waxed paper. Working in 2 batches, in food processor pulse the fish until coarsely ground (do not purée to paste). Transfer to large bowl and add onion, parsley, mayonnaise, egg, lemon juice, and orange juice. Mix gently until well blended, then add matzoh meal, salt, and pepper and mix gently until incorporated.

Using wet hands, roll mixture into 1 ¼ inch-diameter balls and press into ½ inch-thick patties. Arrange on baking sheet with additional waxed paper between each layer of patties. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

In large heavy skillet over high heat, heat ¼ inch oil. Working in batches of 5 and adding more oil as needed, fry patties until brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt while still hot. Serve warm with sauce.

Let it Begin…11 Days and Counting!

Pesach ChecklistOkay folks, I hope you’re prepared… We knew it was coming… That’s right, it’s almost Passover! The holiday, that only though it lasts a mere 8 days, we cook, clean and prep as if it is Y2K all over again! During this holiday, Jews all over the world will eat more oil, eggs and matzo than one would think humanly possible (and definitely not healthy!) Is it just me, or does ever Passover recipe start off with “take 6 eggs and a 1 ½ cups of oil”? I would definitely not plan on having your yearly physical scheduled in the 2 to 3 weeks following Passover. Your doctor will be abhorred by your cholesterol levels!

But it doesn’t have to be all bad! Today’s recipes tend to call for a more balanced approach, using more fresh ingredients, and less of the pre-packaged boxed goods. Not to fault those mind you, I mean, those brownies with that thick icing? Yum! Over the next week and a bit I’m going to be posting different recipes to be made over Passover, trying to focus away from mains (don’t worry, there will still be some) and give options for starters, sides and desserts. Plus, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the COR Passover Guide at your local school, synagogue, grocery or Jewish establishment. For those outside of the greater Toronto area, here is a link to our online version!

Candied Espresso Pecans

Coffee NutsI don’t know about you, but I always like to have a crunchy snack on hand… something a little savoury, a little salty and a little sweet. These candied espresso pecans fit the bill! Relatively low in fat and sugar, these caffeine packed nuts will help you power through the afternoon slump. If you don’t have instant espresso powder, you can substitute by using 50% more dark roast instant coffee. Just note that it will have a slightly harsher more acidic taste than the espresso powder, but it might just be okay considering the sugar and cinnamon in the recipe. This recipe will make about 4 cups of candied nuts.

Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
⅔ cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely ground espresso coffee beans
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 large egg white
4 cups pecan halves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk the sugar, ground espresso beans, espresso powder, cinnamon and salt together in small bowl. Whisk egg white in large bowl until frothy. Add pecans and toss to coat. Sprinkle the pecans with espresso mixture and toss to coat.

Spread coated pecans on prepared sheet in single layer. Bake 5 minutes. Slide spatula under the nuts to loosen them from baking sheet and stir, rearranging in single layer. Bake until the pecans are dry to touch, about 5 minutes longer. Loosen pecans from the sheet again, and then rest to cool on the sheet.

These candied pecans can be made 2 weeks ahead and stored in airtight container at room temperature.

Guatemalan Coffee Brownies with Walnuts

Coffee BrowniesCoffee and chocolate are definitely a no brainer! I mean, just think about Caffé Mochas! The rich, slightly acidic coffee plays well with the sweet hit of cocoa and sugar. For brownies, a full-bodied coffee from Indonesia or Guatemala would pair beautifully with dark chocolate brownies. These brownies call on cocoa, walnuts and ginger, used as a garnish to compliment a full flavoured Guatemalan coffee bean, like an Antigua Coffee would work great! This recipe will make 15 brownies.

Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups sugar
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (2 sticks minus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons finely ground Antigua coffee beans
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup walnut pieces
1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly brewed Antigua coffee
30 thin strips crystallized ginger

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch metal pan with nonstick spray. Combine sugar, butter, cocoa, ground coffee, and salt in large metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water and whisk until butter melts and ingredients are blended (texture will be grainy). Remove bowl from over water; cool mixture to lukewarm if necessary. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Sift flour over and fold in. Mix in walnuts.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake brownies until tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool brownies in pan.

Place chocolate chips in small bowl. Bring brewed coffee to simmer in small saucepan; pour over chips and stir until melted and smooth. Let ganache stand until cool and beginning to thicken, about 1 hour; spread evenly over brownies. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.) Cut brownies into 15 squares. Top each with 2 ginger strips.

Salty Coffee Chicken

Salty Coffee ChickenThis recipe will make enough for 6-8 people to eat. I would suggest serving it up with green beans and mashed potatoes, or serving it cold, picnic style. Either way, it’s delicious! Just make sure to use low-sodium soy sauce, or it might be just a bit too salty!

Ingredients:

1 ⅓ cups reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup cooking sherry*
½ cup strong brewed coffee**
½ cup olive oil
12 chicken legs
ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium, nonreactive container, mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry, coffee, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Place chicken legs in the mixture. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours. Remove chicken from the marinade mixture, and set aside. Transfer the marinade to a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Heat remaining olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with pepper, and brown on all sides in the skillet. Pour the hot marinade mixture into the skillet. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Cool slightly before serving.

* If you don’t have any sherry on hand, or wish to make this dish alcohol free, substitute by using ¼ cup vinegar + 1 tablespoon sugar + ¼ water OR 1 tablespoon vinegar, plus chicken stock or water to make ½ cup.

** For strong brewed coffee, I suggest using 1 ½ times the amount of coffee to water that you usually use to brew a cup.

Ash-e-jow (Iranian/Persian Barley Soup)

Persian Barley Soup

This soup was a hit at last night’s Purim celebration. The addition, that I think was brilliant, that my mother added was some cooked shredded chicken. She also shredded the carrots, rather than diced them. You can leave it out the chicken (meat and stock) and use vegetable stock instead if you wish to make this a non-meat dish. This soup will serve 6-8 people.

Ingredients:

3 quarts chicken stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup diced (or shredded) carrots
¾ cup uncooked pearl barley
1 tablespoon turmeric
½ teaspoon saffron
1-2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 lime, juiced
¼ cup tomato paste
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup non-dairy sour cream
1 cup chopped fresh parsley*
8 lime wedges

* Click here to see how to clean parsley.

Directions:

Heat the chicken stock in a pot to a gentle simmer.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat and sauté the onion, carrots, saffron and turmeric until the onion becomes translucent. Add the pearl barley to the pot and stir for one minute. Stir in the hot chicken stock, shredded chicken, lime juice, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until the soup has thickened and the carrots and barley are tender. If the soup is too thick, add hot water, one tablespoon at a time.

Place the sour cream in a small bowl. Slowly pour ½ cup of hot soup mixture into sour cream, whisking constantly. Gradually add the sour cream mixture into the soup pot, whisking constantly. Stir in the fresh parsley. Serve with fresh lime wedges.

Purim – The Holiday That Keeps On Giving

Shush, Iran
So, out of respect to those that partied just a little too hard yesterday I’ll speak quietly (imagine me whispering) and keep today’s post short. As I explained over the past two days, we’ve just concluded celebrating the holiday of Purim. But like any good holiday worth it’s salt, Purim goes into a bonus day round for those who live in certain areas. Which areas? Why? To explain this, let me give you a little background. As you know, the Purim takes place in ancient Persia, an empire consisting of 127 provinces. The capitol city was named Shushan and was located in what is now modern day South-Western Iran. In those days, Shushan, like most cities, especially large, developed ones, were walled for multitudes of reasons, most importantly for security and safety. This will become important later.

Now when Haman was defeated, and the King gave permission to Mordechai and the Jews to fight back against their enemies, the battles took place on the 13th of Adar, with the victorious resting and celebrating on the 14th of Adar, the day that we now celebrate as Purim. However, in the capitol city of Shushan, where there was a large concentration of anti-semitism, the fighting took two days, the 13th and 14th, with the Jewish people only resting and celebrating on the 15th of Adar.

So what is this extra day I’m talking about? One would think that we’d celebrate on the 14th and only the Shushanites would celebrate on the 15th. However, this was a dark time for Judaism, specifically in the Land of Israel and it’s holy city of Jerusalem. So the Sages decreed, that they wished to honour the importance of the miracle, and the walled city of both Shushan and Jerusalem, that all cities that were walled at the time of Joshua (Yehoshua bin Nun) were to celebrate this extra special day, referred to as “Shushan Purim”, to populate and elevate the miracle that G-d performed.

Today, the only city in which Purim is celebrated on the 15th of Adar (besides Shushan) is Jerusalem. Although the Megillah (the written story of Purim) is also read on the 15th of Adar in a number of other cities in the Land of Israel, including Acre, Jaffa, and Tiberias, this is only a custom based on the possibility that they may have been surrounded by walls at the time of Joshua. In these places, the Megillah reading on the 15th is done without reciting the blessings. For all other purposes, these cities celebrate Purim on the 14th.

So in honour of the bonus day, I’m giving a bonus Purim recipe. This recipe is for a Persian barley soup. I gave the recipe to my mom to use, as her theme this year for the Seudah (festive meal) was Persia, and in her wisdom, she improved upon it. The recipe is her doctored version, and I can attest from eating it last night, is delicious!

Purim Themed Cocktails

Please note, two important things before starting on these recipes. Firstly, if you have concerns regarding kosher alcohol, I suggest checking out the rather complete list published by the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc). The list can be found on their website, or directly by clicking here. Secondly, and no less important, please remember to drink responsibly. Know your limit, and stay within it! If you have had too much to drink, please consider staying over at your host’s house, taking a cab or public transportation. Do not drink and drive.

Rise of MordechaiRise of Mordechai

This is a sparkling pomegranate margarita that celebrates the elevation of Mordechai from condemned man to hero of the Purim story. The pomegranate seeds will rise up on the bubbles from the sparkling water, just like Mordechai did!

Ingredients:

2 ounces Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
1 ½ ounces Tequila
2 ounces pomegranate juice
2 ounce lime juice
1 ½ ounces simple syrup (see below for instructions)
coarse salt for the rim
lime + pomegranate seeds for garnish*
Sparkling water

* Click here for tips on seeding a pomegranate.

Directions:

For simple syrup: combine equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil and let sugar dissolve, then turn off heat and let cool completely.

Rim the ridge of a large glass with a lime wedge and dip in salt. Fill the glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, Cointreau, pomegranate juice, simple syrup and lime juice with ice, and shake for about 30 seconds. Pour over ice and top off with cold sparkling water and a few extra lime slices. Add some pomegranate seeds for decoration.

Heart of HamanDark Heart of Haman

This drink takes on the dark colour of the blackberries and their tartness, just like Haman’s heart! The hint of sage, the “wise herb” adds to the vanity of Haman, who thought he was so smart! This syrup and puree will make enough for a couple of drinks. You’ll need about 6 ounces of sparkling water and 2 ounces of rum per serving.

Ingredients:

15 medium sage leaves*
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup water
8 ounces of frozen blackberries*
Sparkling water
White Rum

* Click here for instructions on sage and blackberries.

Directions:

Bring the water and sugar to a boil over high heat just until sugar dissolves. Crush the sage leaves with the back of a spoon and add to the syrup mixture and set aside to let the sage infuse for 15 minutes and then remove the herbs.

Meanwhile puree the blackberries in the blender and then strain the mixture through a fine strainer.

To serve place a tablespoon of the blackberry puree in the bottom of a glass, add a tablespoon of the sage syrup, 2 ounces of rum and then top off with about ounces of sparkling water.

Esther's SecretEsther’s Secret

The heroine of the Purim story had many secrets… most famous though was her Jewish identity that she kept hidden until the time was right. This drink represents Esther, both in its beauty, and it’s hidden strength… it packs quite the punch!

Ingredients:

2 ounces rum
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce triple sec

Directions:

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the rum, sweet vermouth and triple sec. Shake for about 30 seconds and then pour into a chilled martini glass.

Purim – The Drinking Holiday

Kosher WineYes, Jews drink. This comes as a surprise to some, and not so much to others. True, traditionally speaking, we’re not big drinkers. We have a lot of ceremonial occasions where alcohol, wine specifically is a key part of the observance. We have the weekly Sabbath, where we say Kiddush (the blessing over the wine) at the Friday night meal, the Saturday lunch and then again Saturday night to conclude the observance. Our wedding ceremonies have seven blessings that are said over a cup of wine, at the ceremony itself and then every night for seven nights following. Wine in the Jewish religion is important, and is on a different level, in it’s making and drinking, then any other spirit. But “big drinking”? Drinking to excess and getting drunk? Again, traditionally, not a very popular activity in the Jewish world (Yes, I know that there are Jewish alcoholics, and I am not referring to them in this discussion, though it is a very real problem. There is a wonderful organization based here in Toronto called JACS, that works to help those suffering from alcoholism and addiction, and their families. For more information, please click on this link to be brought to their website).

There is a big exception to this rule though. The holiday of Purim. Jews in general, observant ones specifically, tend to be a pious, spiritual body of people. They spend their days in the observance of G-d’s laws and commandments, and strive to fulfill them to the best of their ability. Alcohol, for the sake of becoming imbibed, directly takes away from that practice. How can you learn, study and teach if you can’t walk in a straight line? In fact, part of Noah’s downfall after the flood, which led to his shame and the cursing of his son and grandson, is as of the direct result of drinking too much wine (read more about that here).

So why is Purim different? Part of the celebration during the holiday is to drink to excess, to achieve a state in which one can no longer differentiate between the villain Haman and the hero Mordechai. I looked around for different sources and explanations (ie: Google Search), and I came across and interesting article on the Chabad website. It stated that by becoming incapciated it is as if we are saying: “Even if we can no longer differentiate between things whose differences should be abundantly clear, we still know that we shall not lack salvation, that our hopes are not fruitless and that our joy is not unbased, for in G-d alone do we place our trust. Whether sober or inebriated, we fear no evil, for You are with us forever.”

It is easy to mark the differences between a “cursed is Haman” and a “blessed is Mordechai”. They are polar opposites on the scale of righteousness. However, what is harder is to learn to recognize the minute intermediate stages between these two extremes. Can you tell the differences between someone who is “mostly good” or “mostly evil”? At what point does the scale tip?

If one has consumed enough on Purim that these stages are no longer clear, then he is considered to have fulfilled his obligation, but there are different ways to find righteousness in this world. Is it through the merits and victory of the good? Or just the downfall of the evil? Is it enough that our enemies perish, or should we elevate ourselves as well?

When the Jewish People act meritoriously, the righteous are exalted and it is their praise that is expressed; all are happy and the joy is complete. But when we lack merit, and our salvation is realized through the downfall of the wicked who are excessively evil, the entire world trembles in fear of G-d, but there is no joy. Thus, the happiness of “blessed is Mordechai” – of the Jewish People being saved through their own merits – is greater than “cursed is Haman” – the salvation that comes when the wicked have been destroyed.Nevertheless, the Sages ruled that on Purim one is required to drink until he reaches the point where he can no longer differentiate between these two types of salvation. Why? Because the downfall of Haman is completely different from the downfall of other wicked people. The joy that results from his defeat is as complete as that which results from the victory of the righteous. Haman is a descendant of Amalek, of whom the verse states: “And in the destruction of the wicked there is song (Proverbs, 11:10)”. When Amalek is obliterated, it is as if there is a revelation of the Spirit of G-d in the world and it is therefore fitting that we celebrate.

Thus, there is no difference between the joy associated with “cursed is Haman” and that associated with “blessed is Mordechai.” So that man might not be distressed that he has merited salvation because of the excessive evil of the wicked rather than through his own merit, our Sages ordained that he drink and forget the difference between these two sources of salvation.

Hamentashen

HamentashenThere are a million different flavours out there for Hamentashen! You can go old fashioned with prune or poppy seed, traditional with jam, or try some new modern twists! Below you’ll find a basic dough recipe, and then some new fillings to try this year! I hope you like them!

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
¾ cup margarine
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
Filling of choice (See below for some options!)
egg wash (egg + water)

Instructions:

Sift together the baking powder, flour, sugar and salt. Cut in the margarine. Add well beaten eggs and mix together to form a soft dough. Roll out on a floured board to ¼” thickness. Cut with a large, round cookie cutter. Put a spoonful of desired filling in centre, and pinch together to form triangular pocket. Brush with an egg wash, put on a well-greased pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Poppy Seed Filling:

Ingredients:
¾ cup poppy seeds
2 tablespoons margarine
½ cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons sugar
1 egg

Directions:
Beat the egg in a bowl and set aside. Melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Whisk in the coconut milk, sugar and honey and simmer over a low flame until the sugar is melted. Pour half the hot mixture into a cup. Very slowly drizzle the hot mixture into the beaten egg, whisking constantly. Slowly pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Simmer the mixture for 3-4 minutes until it thickens. Remove from fire. Whisk in the poppy seeds and refrigerate until fully cooled before using.

Fresh Cranberry Filling:

Ingredients:
1 (12 oz.) package fresh cranberries
1 ¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 ¼ water
Zest of one orange

Directions:
Bring water, sugar, and orange zest to a boil and continue to boil for about 10 minutes, until mixture is syrup–like. Add cranberries and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until berries pop. Remove from heat. Pour into bowl and refrigerate overnight or until chilled.

Apple Pie Filling:

Ingredients:
2 apples, very finely diced
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:
Peel and dice the apples very finely. Mix in the sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss until apples are fully coated.

Coffee Cake Filling:

Ingredients:
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans or cashews
2 tablespoons melted margarine
1 to 2 tablespoons apple butter

Directions:
Mix the sugar, cinnamon and nuts together. Slowly drizzle in the margarine in, and then toss to mix with the apple butter. You may find it easier to blend in the butter if you microwave it first for about 15 seconds.

Pecan Pie Filling:

Ingredients:
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup almond milk
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¾ cup pecan pieces
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Whisk together the maple syrup, almond milk, salt, and cornstarch in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture boils and thickens. Once boiling, turn off the heat and stir-in pecan pieces and vanilla. Allow to fully cool.

Lemon Bar Filling:

Ingredients:
½ cup arrowroot or tapioca starch
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 lemons, juiced (just under 1 cup juice)
zest of 1 lemon
4 eggs
¾ cup honey
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:
Combine arrowroot or tapioca, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, palm sugar, and maple syrup. Whisk wet ingredients into dry until dry ingredients are completely dissolved. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan on low-medium heat, and whisk continuously for 8-10 minutes until a thick custard forms. Be very careful to continue whisking on a lower flame or the eggs might scramble. Allow to completely cool.