Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sweet Matzoh Brei

It’s been a couple of weeks since Passover and many Jewish people (and their admirers) realize that they have boxes of unused matzoh. I’ve learned that these make great vehicles for peanut butter, honey, chocolate and jelly. However if you want a substantive meal, your best bet is matzoh brei (literally fried matzoh). The dish is essentially matzoh French toast and comes out of the same tradition – a way to salvage unused or stale bread.

Matzoh brei can be sweet or savory and prepared formed like a frittata or loose like scrambled eggs. It can be topped with salsa, apple sauce, jelly, sugar or preserves. Some people incorporate cheese, meat or vegetables. Matzoh brei is generally prepared during Passover when observant Jews do not eat leavened bread. However it makes a delicious and quick breakfast or brunch at any time of the year.

3 matzohs
hot water
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
maple syrup, for serving

Serves 2-3

1. Break matzoh into pieces, approximately 1-2 inch squares.
2. Place in a strainer and pour 2 cups of boiling water over the matzohs. Let sit for 2 minutes.

3. In a medium bowl beat eggs, milk and vanilla.
4. Place skillet over medium heat and melt butter.
5. Dip all the matzoh into egg mixture and transfer to heated skillet.

6. Cook on one side and then flip over to cook on the other side. The matzoh brei should be as cooked as scrambled eggs before serving.
7. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and serve with maple syrup.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This recipe brings together three of my favourite ingredients – chocolate, coconut and bananas. It’s the second banana bread recipe I’ve posted on this site – check out the first one for more about this American quick bread.

1/2 cup desiccated coconut, toasted
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated or caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 overripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the pan.
2. Toast coconut in oven (at 350 F for 10-15 minutes), saucepan or microwave (on high for 30 seconds at a time). Check frequently as coconut can burn easily. Set aside to cool.
3. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, and coconut and set aside.
4. In a large bowl beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add bananas and coconut extract and mix well.
5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into loaf pan.
6. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool to room temperature.
7. Using a sharp serrated knife, slice banana bread into 3/4 inch pieces. Serve at breakfast, brunch or tea time. Store in air tight container for 2 days at room temperature or refrigerated for one week.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Cupcakes

Easter is one of my favorite times of year. I have fond childhood memories of egg hunts, chocolate bunnies and peeping yellow chicks. Alberta, the province where I grew up, has a special connection to Easter. The tiny town of Vegreville boasts the world’s largest Ukrainian Easter egg known as a Pysanka.

This week’s recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s famous coconut cupcakes which are topped with green coconut 'grass' and decorated with chocolate or candy eggs.

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
14 ounces shredded coconut

Frosting and Topping
1 pound cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups shredded coconut
6-8 drops green food color
candy eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a muffin pan with foil liners.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar on high speed. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
3. In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and the milk to the wet ingredients. Mix well. Add another 1/3 of dry ingredients and coconut milk. Mix well. Add remaining dry ingredients. Fold in coconut.
5. Spoon batter into muffin liners and bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 30 minutes.
6. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and remove to baking rack until completely cool.
7. To make frosting, in a large bowl beat cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract.
8. Using a knife spread frosting on cupcakes.
9. Put shredded coconut in a large Ziplock bag. Add a few drops of food color. Close tightly and shake until the coconut is colored. If you want deeper color, add more food color and repeat.
10. Sprinkle on cupcakes. Gently place two to three eggs on each cupcake. Refrigerate to set the frosting.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sautéed Scallops with Summer Relish

Scallops are marine animals found in all of the world’s oceans. Closely related to clams, oysters and mussels, scallops are active swimmers and have the distinction of being the only migratory bivalves (two-shelled mollusks).

The term scallop comes from the ancient port of Ascalon which is modern day Ashkelon, Israel. The shell has become associated with Saint James the Greater, a disciple of Jesus. It is also a symbol of fertility - images of Venus, the Roman Goddess of fertility and love, are often associated with the scallop. The most well known example is Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. As a testament to its enduring appeal, in 1988 the scallop was named the official shell of New York state.

Scallops are popular in Western and Eastern cuisine. In the United States and Europe they are often sautéed (as in this recipe) or breaded and fried. In Japan scallops are served fresh in sashimi, sushi or soup. In China dried scallops, known as conpoy, are used to flavor sauces, stir fries and rice porridge.

In anticipation of summer, this recipe can provide a fresh and tangy start to your meal.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

1/2 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1/4 red bell pepper, minced
1 green onion, minced
1/8 red onion, minced
handful of cilantro, finely chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon honey
few drops of Tabasco or other spicy sauce
1 lb sea scallops (about 16)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 lemon, cut into wedges

1. In a small bowl, mix mango, pepper, onions and cilantro. Set aside.
2. In another bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lime juice, honey and Tabasco. Pour over mango mixture. If making in advance, mix the two just before cooking the scallops.
3. Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté scallops over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
4. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Serve topped with mango relish. Squeeze a wedge of lemon over each plate before serving.