Passover Recipes that Will Make Your Mama Say Oy!

Passover is one of those Jewish holidays that I absolutely love in theory yet totally hate in practice. On one hand, you get to eat delicious food with close friends and family while re-telling the story of the Jewish peoples epic flight for freedom in ancient Egypt. And there’s wine, a lot of wine. Four full glasses of wine to be exact that have to be fully drained before moving on to the next one. And when you are using an abridged Haggadah like I did, the gaps of time between each glass is infinitely shorter than they probably should be. On the other, you can’t anything made with flour which seriously limits your daily food intake. But hey, I get to drink four glasses of wine in one go. Can’t really complain with that.

However, Passover is more about drinking until we are too merry to realize that we are slathering our matzoh with horseradish and not butter. Its about celebrating our freedom from slavery. WOOT! Of course there is a whole lot more to the story than just that but I won’t bore you with the details. What you should do is go out and either watch the film, The Prince of Egypt (which is kick-ass) or that episode of the Rugrats. Both do an excellent job of re-telling the story of Passover in a fun and colorful, but also represent an awesome time in 1990s animation.

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The Prince of Egypt currently available on Netflix so do take advantage of the fact that it is out there for easy viewing. Just do not watch Dreamwork’s follow up film, Joseph, the King of Dreams. A cinematic master piece it is not!

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Also, I had a professor who was used as a historic consultant in the movie which only makes the film more awesome!

Now that I’ve skirted around the topic of explaining what Passover really is, I can get to the fun part of this post: THE FOOD!

Believe it or not, Passover is not all about stuffing our faces with matzoh for eight days. Personally, I like to think of Passover as one big epic food challenge. How many dishes can you come up with that do not include any leavening agents? As it turns out, not every Passover recipe has to be a matzoh sandwich with cheese. There are other options out there.

This year for Passover, I decided to try my hand at making something new, haroset. What’s that? It’s an apple based spread that we eat with matzoh. Most commonly, people make a sandwich of matzoh, haroset, and horseradish. At the same time, I absolutely needed to make my mom’s Passover friendly macaroons, a recipe that my sister freaked when she heard I had it memorized. Seriously, they are that good.

Hope you enjoy and happy Passover!

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Passover Macaroons

(Adapted from the always useful, The Joy of Cooking)

One 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk

1 large egg white

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

A pinch of salt

One bag of shredded, sweetened coconut

1 bag of chocolate chips, either normal size or mini.

Preheat oven to 325. Mix everything together in a large bowl until 100% combined.

Break out the cookie sheets and line with parchment paper. Scoop tablespoon sized portions of the mixture onto the cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the coconut has toasted on top and the sides have browned.

My Own Haroset Recipe

3 Fuji apples, peeled and sliced

1 cup of chopped walnuts

1 cup of golden raisins

3 tablespoons of honey

1 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (or however much you think is needed)

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4 cup of either grape juice or a sweet red wine

Combine all together in a big bowl and chill until ready to serve.

History of Cookbooks pt. 2

*Considering how lengthy my last post was when I included my history section, I have decided to dedicate a separate post to it entirely. That way, I won’t have to fight with my inner voice that screams at me when things are getting to lengthy*

For today’s segment, I’m going to give a brief overview of four of the first ever printed cookbooks, all originated in the fifteenth century.

1). De honesta voluptate et valetudine (Of Honest Indulgence and Good Health) is considered to be the first ever printed cookbook, published in 1474 Italy. Written by Bartolomeo Sacchi, he combined methodologies towards achieving good health along with recipes from other works. According to authors Anne Willan and Mark Cherniavsky “The recipes in De honesta have an artisanal rather than an intellectual bent, reflecting the new scientific philosophy of the humanist era” (49).

Like other cookbooks printed during this century, these books were relatively plain in appearance; there was definitely no celebrity chef’s picture plastered on the cover. Additionally, the average reader of these books were often ones of wealth or nobility. For that reason, they paint a clear picture of what life was like for those with affluent backgrounds, especially during times of feasts and banquets.

2). While the first printed cookbook originated from Italy, the second on my overview comes from Germany. Kuchenmeisterei (Mastery of the Kitchen) was published in 1485. While De honesta was written for a targeted audience, the author of Kuchenmeisterei had a broader audience in mind: “For princely households, prosperous city-dwellers, for  wealthy cloisters, and for master chefs in the taverns and inns of the nobility and their families” (Willan & Cherniavsky 50). A rather short volume, the book is divided into sections, such as dishes for fasting-days (soups, fruit preserves, and fish) meats, game, and finally, side dishes.

3). The list would not be complete without something French. Published in Paris, in 1486, Le Viandier (The Victualler) captured the essence of culinary traditions during the medieval era. Influenced by older manuscript from the fourteenth century, Le Viandier was extremely popular during its time, even getting a re-print in the nineteenth century. As for recipes. it is rumored that they originated from the author, Taillevent, himself. The remaining recipes are more contemporary, reflecting the culinary trends of the century. Another thing that is interesting to note  is that the recipes “Reflect the fact that table implements were sparse” with purees and porridge appearing frequently throughout (Willan & Cherniavsky54).

Additionally, the presence of spices too is an interesting trend. Heavily used in preparation, spices represented both signs of wealth as well as a new means of trade. Light and portable, they could be traded for other goods. Strangely, the popularity of spices would wane, barely being featured in European cooking during the sixteenth century.

4). The English cookbook, Boke of Cokery (1500) complete today’s list. Published in London, the book featured both recipes from the medieval era and more contemporary, English recipes and techniques. As the case with the other books mentioned here, the printed version of the Boke of Cokery was based off earlier texts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that much about the Boke of Cokery, though a bit of online research brought me here: http://www.godecookery.com/gcooktoc/gcooktoc.htm

While I can’t totally tell if this is the same cookbook since the title is different, overall, this is a really  cool website. With translated manuscripts and cookbooks, articles, term glossary, and much much more, you could spend hours reading up on per-modernity cooking. If you have some time, check it out. There are tons of translated recipes there so if you’re planning a Renaissance themed dinner party, this would be an excellent source.

That’s all for now though I can assure you the next installment will be coming soon. I will admit that I am still figuring out how I want to present this whole history thing so please bear with me. I promise to iron out the kinks over time.

 

Till then,

Litbaker

Work Cited

Willan, Anne, Mark Cherniavsky, and Kyri Claflin. The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook. Berkeley: University of California, 2012. Print.

The Joys of….Viewing??

Tv. The tube, the devil’s invention. These are just a smattering of words that I have heard used to describe the wonder that is television. But love it or hate it, I personally (opinion alert!!!) believe that tv is a foodie’s best friend. Why? Well, we eat with our eyes right? I don’t about you guys but watching shows like Masterchef, Top Chef, Cake Boss, Cupcake Wars make me salivate whenever I view them. But these shows, and the many, many, others that are out there are more than just indulgences of food porn goodness, they can also be inspiring (gasp!) and educational (double gasp!!!). Well, the fact that they can be educational shouldn’t be that surprising, I mean, the Food Network must have a monopoly on instructional food shows by now. But even before Sandra Lee stepped into her constantly festive and color-coordinated kitchen to butcher cakes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we2iWTJqo98) we had more…impressive culinary teachers, like Paula Deen, and of course, the Big Mama herself, Julia Child.

Taught us both how to cook French cuisine and how to truly enjoy our time in the kitchen. Thank you, Julia!

Famous names aside, food based tv shows, at least for me, are half of what fuels my interest to tackle new things in the kitchen. With an insatiable sense of curiosity, I love finding new food shows to watch, and with the wonders of pirating I mean streaming, I can watch programs like The Great British Bake Off, Masterchef NZ, and Two Fat Ladies. Programs likes these do more than just showcase gorgeous looking food, they educate as well. For example, both The Great British Bake Off and Masterchef NZ have segments called ‘Masterclass’ in which the show briefly drops its competitive angle and show the viewer how to make certain dishes at home. Going further, The Great British Bake Off cuts up its normal programs with brief segments on food history which feature certain food scholars and historians. Considering my interests, you can imagine the foodie/history overload I had when I discovered this little British gem. And while I’m still praising this deliciously wonderful show, I’ll mention how they show the viewer what the contestants through the use of cute illustrations, like one’s you’d find in grandma’s cookbook. Although these shows are not exactly cooking shows in the traditional sense of the term, they are still mighty informative, inspiring, and just plain enjoyable. Are they Emmy Award programs? Ummm, I wouldn’t go that far, but that doesn’t mean they are just mindless trash either. If you’re like me and enjoy some background noise while multitasking,trying checking out some of the shows that I mentioned above. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy them the same way I do.

Till next time,

Litbaker

You Call it Brunch, I Call it Delicious

*Apologies in advance, this is a very long post. I promise that future posts won’t be this long*

For the handful of you readers who took the time to come check out this blog, take a sigh of relief, I am back! And as promised, I’m going to bring some actual substance to today’s blog post. Substance you say? Indeed, I do! But first, let’s take a moment to talk about brunch. And yes, before you start to fret that I am wasting your time with my whimsical musings, I am going somewhere with this.

Brunchtime with Friends

One of the perks of living in a rather foodie part of Long Island is the various foods options available to a rag-tag group of friends when the tummy starts to grumble. Yesterday, me and my two close friends from high school decided to meet up for a meal. While brunch was proposed we took a little bit of time trying to work out where we wanted to go. Ok, we took a lot of time tying to figure it out. However, due to our rather limited budget and the splendors of coupons, we were eventually able to narrow down our choice to the one and only, Sweet Mama’s. For you Long Islanders, this wonderful place is located in Northport and is definitely worth the drive if you are fond of classic American breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods. It’s that sort of mom and pop place that feels like you are walking into a close friend or relatives dining room. How’s the food? Um, amazing. Check out yesterday’s lunch/brunch menu.

Lunctime Noms at Sweet Mama's

Lunchtime noms at Sweet Mama’s

While all those specials looked absolutely scrumptious, my friends and I opted for items off the menu. Here is a run down of what we had: four waters, one hot chocolate, two french toasts made from croissants with strawberries, blueberries, and copious amounts of cream cheese and butter, one side of home fries, one side of bacon, one Mediterranean wrap, with feta, olives, lettuce, and tomatoes, along with coleslaw, one order of potato pancakes (with sour cream), and one  ice cream sundae with three spoons. Not bad for three girls with a $5 coupon.

The remains of a heavenly plate of french toast

Remnants of my friend Leslie’s french toast

As my friends and I munched away on our yummy noms I kept thinking to myself, “Why is french toast so good?” Well for starters, it just is, plain and simple. But seriously, the fact that the combination of bread with butter, and an egg mixture can produce such a heavenly meal is a testament to why food is good. Especially when you are down for experimenting with flavors and different food stuff. But if you are like me, still new to world of cooking and a bit cautious to get fancy with the spices and what-not, we can thankfully turn to the wonderful resource that is a cookbook. I’m not sure about you guys but I thank my stars that the act of writing down a recipe complete with measurements, cooking temps, and instructions is a popular trend within our modern society.  But for those of you who don’t know, this trend is only a few centuries old. “Really?” you ask, “tell us more”. Okay 🙂 Time to show-off my research skills. Prepare to be amazed!

The Abridged History of Cookbooks (part one)

The modern cookbook is just that, a modern invention. While the recording of recipes can be traced back to the time of Egyptian kings, these documentations were often reserved for the tomb walls of kings and the wealthy. In regards to early European cookbooks, these were hand-written manuscripts, and their circulation was limited to those who could both afford and read them. This was a tradition adapted from, you probably guessed it, the ancient Greeks and Romans. However, their culinary records were not done in the style typically expected. In fact, one of the earliest accounts was recorded within a poem. Can you picture Shakespeare writing a sonnet titled “Ode to French Onion Soup”? Me either. On a rather cool note, these early ‘cookbooks’ provide wonderful insight to the food culture and its relationship to society during the age of antiquity. One book of note, De re Coquinaria (Of Culinary Matters) by Marcus Gavius Apicius, was written in Rome around the first century. Split into ten volumes, each tome featured recipes and culinary advice such as how to best store perishable foods. With over four hundred different recipes, “Apicius is careful to specify ingredients, though without quantities and often in random order” (Willian & Cherniavsky 14).

For the sake of length, I’ll pick up on my history of cookbooks section next time. We have a lot of history to get through and I’d hate to bore you.

If you are curious about Apicius and his masterpiece, do a little research online or at your local library. You can actually find translated copies of his recipes in case you are feeling like challenging yourself.  Oh and before I forget, my mother’s friends have recruited me to do some baking next week. The selected recipe: Orange Berry Muffins. I will post the recipe next time as well.

Till then,

Litbaker

Ps. Here is one of my cute kitties. Say hello to Cody.

Aint he a handsome fella?

Isn’t he a handsome fella?

Link to Sweet Mama’s: http://www.sweetmamaskitchen.net/ordereze/default.aspx

Work Cited

Sitwell, William. “A History of Cookbooks.” We Love This Book. N.p.,26 June 2012. Web. 24 May 2013. <http://www.welovethisbook.com/features/history-cookbooks&gt;.

Willan, Anne, Mark Cherniavsky, and Kyri Claflin. The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook. Berkeley: University of California, 2012. Print.