Sweet, Sweet, Vegetarian Passover (part 2)

Passover gets a bad rap for being a time of stale, dense, or tasteless desserts. With limited ingredients available to bake with and most home-chefs cooking with their ‘Passover dishes’ rather than their trusty year-round kitchen appliances, it can be difficult to make desserts that are tasty, (relatively) healthy, and satisfying. Perhaps the most well-known of Passover desserts is what’s affectionately known as ‘crack’– a toffee and chocolate encrusted piece of matzo sprinkled with nuts. But there’s so much more-don’t stop there!!! Luckily S grew up in a house where dessert was a major component to Passover and D is happily reaping the benefits of it! And with almost all family-favorite desserts being veggie-friendly, even the pickiest of eaters can have their cake and eat it too!

strawberry whip

2 egg whites turns into all of this deliciousness!

Strawberry ‘Ice Cream’ -pareve (aka dairy-free) and super easy to make

1 pint strawberries, diced and sugared (I don’t use much sugar for this part, just about a teaspoon over the top before you get started to pull out the sweetness of the berries)
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 T. lemon juice
dash of salt
2 T. Manischewitz or any sweet red wine
Beat egg whites until peaks form in a LARGE bowl (the biggest you have–trust me on this one). Add sugar slowly until mixed in. Add in strawberries, lemon juice, salt, and wine. Mix on high for 15 minutes–2 egg whites will turn into more whip than you’d expect so its important to beat for the full 15 minutes! Freeze until ready to serve, then serve like ice cream. Garnish with strawberries or fresh mint/basil.
Passover Brownies
4 squares baking chocolate
1/4 pound plus 1 TBSP butter or margarine
 4 eggs
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup matzo meal
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
*optional: add 1/2 cup nuts*
Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Let cool. In a separate bowl beat eggs with sugar. Add in cake meal, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add in cooled chocolate mixture and mix to combine completely. If desired, mix in nuts. Bake in a greased 13×9 pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
S’s notes: The top of these brownies tend to crack and get lighter brown than typical brownies, which were actually preferred in my house growing up! These are gooey and sticky but hold together without falling apart. I hope these bring your family as much happiness as they brought mine!
Lemon Cake (recipe from Marcy Goldman)
8 eggs
1/2 cup matzo meal
1/3 cup potato starch, plus a few tablespoons for ‘flouring’ the pan
2 TBSP lemon juice
3 TBSP melted, unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP lemon zest
1 TBSP orange zest
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and ‘flour’ (using potato starch) a 9×13 pan or a 9-10 inch round pan. Set aside.
Cover all 8 eggs with very hot water and let sit for 3-4 minutes– the water should not be so hot that the eggs crack. This is key to the texture of the cake–do not omit it! While the eggs are warming,  in a small bowl, combine the matzo meal and potato starch. In a separate small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the melted butter.
When warmed, break the eggs into a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and zests. Beat on low until just combined, then bring the speed up to high for 12 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and slowly alternate adding the matzo meal/potato starch mixture with the lemon juice/butter mixture. Go slowly, as adding too quickly will cause the eggs to deflate.
Pour batter gently into prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes until cake is firm to the touch. Remove to cool, approximately 10 minutes, and serve with fresh fruit.
S’s notes: This is a new recipe in my family but a wide success in its first year! We made it exactly as the recipe calls for, but felt it could use more lemon flavor. Feel free to play with the amount of zest in the recipe, or even make a lemon juice simple syrup to drizzle over the cake immediately after it comes out of the oven.
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups cake meal
3 TBSP potato starch
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup nuts or chocolate chips (or mix of both)
cinnamon sugar
Beat eggs with an electric mixer- add in sugar and oil, then continue to beat until fully incorporated. In a small bowl, whisk cake meal and potato starch together then add into egg mixture. Add vanilla and nuts/chocolate until combined, but don’t overmix. Wet hands and form dough into 2 shallow loafs, approximately 6-7 inches wide and 1 inch thick (as long as needed after that!) Place loaves on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle entire loaf with cinnamon sugar. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Score rolls into 1 inch wide pieces (see photo below). Bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees until pieces are firm. Take trays out of oven and flip each loaf over (usually easiest to do a few pieces at a time) and re-score pieces if needed. Sprinkle again with cinnamon sugar and bake 15 more minutes. Cool…if you can wait that long…and serve with coffee, tea, or leave on the counter for snacking!
be sure to bake these standing 'up' rather than flipping them on their sides--it will keep them more moist!

be sure to bake these standing ‘up’ rather than flipping them on their sides–it keeps them  moist!

S’s notes: Best described as Jewish biscotti, mandelbreit are labor-intensive to make but perhaps the most ‘normal’ of Passover baked goods. Multiple times this year already I’ve heard “are you SURE these are ok for Passover?” from Jewish and non-Jewish friends alike…including D! When you try these you’ll see why- it will have you rethinking what you think you know about Passover dessert.

Lentil ‘Meatballs’ and Molten Salted Caramel Chocolate Cakes

It only took 50+ days, but I achieved part of my new years resolution—the bulk of a meal made completely by following a new recipe! It started with an absolutely tempting dessert recipe that I stowed away for our first Valentines Day as a married couple. I was excited to surprise D, who may love salted caramel more than me, and stocked up on the ingredients subtly. And like the best laid plans, life got in the way and I got hit with the flu just before February 14th.

We decided to postpone V-Day until I was feeling better, which means this weekend was both Valentines Day and our 4-month wedding anniversary. Time has flown by, so I wanted to really take a night to celebrate us, celebrate the milestone of 1/3 of our newlywed year, and do something a little bit challenging to symbolize taking risks and growing together. What resulted was far better than I ever could have imagined.

We paired our 'meatballs' with a kale salad and garlic bread

We paired our ‘meatballs’ with a kale salad and garlic bread

Lentil ‘Meatballs’ with Homemade Marinara

Meatballs were never a huge appeal for me growing up–while they were always homemade, they just weren’t my favorite meal. Regardless, I have always loved Italian food, especially in the cooler months when comfort food is anything warm! Pasta has never been a big component in our diets, but I would honestly put D’s marinara on a flip flop, so these ‘meatballs’ seemed like a great way to satisfy all of our priorities while also trying something new. I am so proud to say that I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of substituting fresh basil for the parsley that the recipe called for. We didn’t make the pesto that the recipe called for, but I preferred these with marinara because the texture and color actually makes them seem like turkey/chicken meatballs, which traditionally would be served with a red sauce. They were fun to make- we actually smashed everything together with a potato masher instead of the food processor! 

We invited some friends over to dinner and I was honestly nervous. Our friend E is as rough-and-rugged as it gets. He lives in the woods, stocks his freezer with freshly killed venison, and is a true man’s man. His wife R was vegetarian in college, so we knew she would give us honest feedback about how well these compared to the real deal.

OH.MY.GOODNESS. The herbs and the ricotta keep these rich and flavorful, the lentils give them great texture, and there’s nothing better than knowing these are honestly healthy! I also like that they’re ‘clean’ eating, not a ton of processed soy, which often people associate as the only alternative to meat. Drenched in some amazing marinara, all 4 of us were completely satiated. I took the leftovers for lunch today and put them over quinoa– what a fantastic pairing. Try these on a sub with melted mozzarella, atop your favorite pasta, or toss with pesto for a different iteration. I can’t wait to make a double batch and freeze them to have as needed for weeknight dinners- they are very versatile and so delicious!

Absolutely decadent!

Absolutely decadent!

Molten Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel
The recipe that started it all…I love the meticulous nature of baking and knowing that as long as you follow steps A, B, and C that the end result will be what you expect. Life doesn’t always work out that way, nor do relationships, but you’ve got to take the risks to see if the end result is worthwhile.  While this recipe may be intimidating, just take it step by step and you’ll be fine. At the end, you’ll have an oozing chocolate and caramel reward. My only suggestion from the initial recipe is to add the caramel to the ramekins before you refrigerate them, because once the cake portion sets in the fridge, it’s hard to push the caramel into the cake and cover it back up with cake batter (you want it to be completely enclosed with the chocolate batter). We also made them in muffin tins because we didn’t plan well and the ramekins were in the dishwasher…so don’t make the same mistake we made. They were still amazing, but more difficult to get out of the pan due to the slight slope of the sides. No one seemed to mind the gooey mess that resulted because we were too busy licking our forks and trying to hold back from eating the leftover cakes.

If you’re too intimidated by the full recipe, here’s my suggestion for a way to adapt this to suit your level of comfort with baking. Make a double batch of the caramel and pour it atop your favorite brownie recipe (even if that’s a boxed mix!) Just bake the brownies completely and pour the caramel over while they’re still warm so that the chocolate and caramel get a chance to melt together a bit and cool together. This caramel is absolutely fantastic. It takes quite a while for the sugar to get to the golden level you need it to get to, but patience is a virtue and I promise you’ll find it worth the wait. The only downside of this recipe is now I’ve revealed my trump card and D expects salted caramel everything for every special occasion moving forward. We’ll see….

Sometimes taking a risk pays off. And this weekend, despite the delay in our special meal, every minute in the kitchen created one of the most amazing meals we’ve had in a while.