Some new perspectives on the foods of Passover:
• Jennifer Felicia Abadi’s cookbook A Fistful of Lentils (Harvard Common Press, $24.95) balances the traditional recipes of her Middle Eastern heritage with her training at professional culinary school. This is a celebration of Jewish-Syrian traditions that she shares with memorable poignancy. There is a complete menu for the Syrian-style Passover Seder, enlightening for those of us who are familiar only with the recipes of Eastern Europe. I was particularly intrigued by the flourless pistachio cookies flavored with orange water.
• Manischewitz has introduced a new Passover product line called Kitni, expanding beyond its traditional Ashkenazi roots. Kitniyot is a category of food acceptable for Sephardic Jews to consume during Passover, including beans, corn, and rice. There are new convenience foods for Passover as well, including an almond pecan granola made with whole grain wheat matzo, almonds, pecans, dried cranberries and coconut ($4.99).
• For those with food sensitivities, Passover can be difficult. One resource is a new cookbook by nutrition expert Vicky Pearl, Gluten Free Goes Gourmet (self published, $35), with recipes that not only are gluten free but also are kosher, dairy free, corn free and low glycemic. Many of the recipes are kosher for Passover as well, including the easy zucchini soup here, plus chicken soup with knaidlach, gefilte fish, potato kugel and knishes, chicken chasseur, and pecan and chocolate chip cookies. Available at gfbyvickypearl.com or on Amazon.
Q: While reading your rum cake recipe in the Miami Herald, I noted that it requires a box of yellow cake mix and also a box of instant vanilla pudding mix. I have a wonderful recipe that requires a yellow cake mix without pudding in it. Do you know how hard it is to find one on the grocery shelves? It seems that 95 percent of cake mixes already have pudding in the mix
A: Though Betty Crocker and Pillsbury mixes seem to all have pudding in the mix, Duncan Hines does not (even the ones labeled moist deluxe). You can also check store brands such as Walmart’s America’s Choice. Here’s another quick doctored cake mix recipe. If you like, add sliced berries, peaches or whatever before the final layer of topping.
Tried and New
If, like me, you are intrigued by new gadgets, these are worth checking out:
• The VinOice from Cork Pops is a step up from messy ice buckets for keeping your Chardonnay cold and crisp. You chill the stainless steel rod in the freezer, then when ready to serve put it right in the bottle and it will keep your wine at the perfect temperature for half an hour. It has a built-in nondrip pourer you screw on, so you just leave the rod in while serving. ($28 at major wine retailers and at corkpops.com).
• The 3-in-1 Pocket Grater from Cuispro is wonderfully compact — a mere 7-by-1-inches — so you can tuck it into a picnic basket or pack in your lunch bag, yet it has three grating surfaces along with a plastic guard to protect the blades. I love being able to put a fine shaving of Parmesan on my pasta salad without carrying a huge rasp. ($10 at Sur la Table or at cuisipro.com).
The collapsible serving bowl from Pampered Chef makes so much sense. Push it down and it takes up a lot less space, plus in that position it can be used for chips and dip. Open it up and it can hold two to eight quarts, depending on the size you buy. There’s even a nonskid ring, and a lid for popping it into the fridge or cooler. $17.50 for the two-quart size at pamperedchef.com.
reader response: coffee in brisket
Why would you add leftover coffee to your simmering beef brisket? Joy Whiting tells us “coffee makes it richer both in color and in flavor.” She was writing in response to a request from Maddie of North Miami, who wanted a recipe because she’d once seen her late mother-in-law put it in the Dutch oven while preparing her secret recipe.
“I learned from my mother to waste not want not. Instead of buying a browning agent such as Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet, she’d throw in the leftover morning coffee or the flat can of Coca-Cola. She’d wash out the last of the ketchup bottle with some water to get every last drop and throw it in, too. She could make gravy from anything.”
Mary J. says she has been adding coffee to her brisket “since I was a teenager working as a waitress at a diner and got in trouble for pouring old coffee into the sink. The cook told me it made the stew beef tender when you put it in the pot. I don’t know if that’s true, but she made the best stew I ever tasted so I still follow the recipe she gave me after she finished yelling at me.” Mary kindly shared the recipe here, which does indeed make a very fine and tender brisket. I added the precise measurements as hers, still scribbled on the back of an order ticket, called for interpretation — like the one for “half a teacup of Worcestershire.”
Q: I just realized a favorite recipe I always served during Lent has gone missing. It is for a make-ahead pimiento cheese soufflé. It sounds crazy, but it was a no-fail soufflé that you made the day before because it had to chill for 24 hours. I’m hoping one of your readers has this one and will share.
Lucy Marie Houghton
Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Replies cannot be guaranteed.