The Jew And The Carrot

Why I’m Baking Key-Shaped Challah This Week

By Noam Sienna

Schlissell challah made by Melinda Strauss, whose site, Kitchen Tested, offers a recipe and how-to. Photograph by Melinda Strauss

Bread has been on my mind lately…

It seems there’s nothing like a week of absence to make my love of complex carbohydrates grow stronger. As we begin counting until Shavuot, many will think of dairy products as the food of the season. But it is bread, in fact, which links the two holidays. This Sabbath in particular, the first Shabbat after Passover, has a special — and controversial — bread associated with it.

Each stage of the Exodus story has its own kind of bread: Passover begins with the consumption of matzo, the classic symbol of the holiday, and the wandering Israelites in the desert were fed by manna, or “bread from heaven.” Once they entered the Land of Israel, though, Passover marked the beginning of the barley harvest. The Israelites were forbidden to eat the newly harvested grain until the first sheaf of it (omer) had been offered to God by the priests (Leviticus 23:14).

From that day, the Israelites were commanded to count seven weeks until the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, for which they must offer two loaves of bread (Leviticus 23:17) — the only offering that includes leaven (chametz), normally banned from the altar (Exodus 34:25). Thus we are now in the middle of a single, unified period of transition, from Pesah through the Omer to Shavuot, from grain to bread, from Exodus through the wilderness to Sinai.

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Counting on Barley

By Carol Goodman Kaufman

Thinkstock

When we hear the word Passover, we think about matzo, matzo brei, and matzo balls, but before the destruction of the Second Temple Jews associated Passover both with matzo and with barley.

Barley was a critical foundation of our ancestors’ diets due to its resilience in the searing desert heat, and since it was the major grain of the time, it is not surprising that the Torah mentions it frequently. All of the references make it clear that barley was a staple of the ancient diet whose preservation was critical. The Book of Exodus tells of a pounding rain of hailstones “by which the barley was smitten,” one of the ten plagues brought on the Egyptians about which we read at the Seder. The Prophet Ezekiel paid penance to God by eating a diet relying on barley. When King David’s son, Absalom, ordered his servants to burn Joab’s fields, it was barley that was set afire. And, seven weeks after Passover, on the Festival of Shavuot, we read in the Book of Ruth that King David’s great-grandmother gleaned barley from kinsman Boaz’s fields.

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Amaranth, Squash and Herb Salad

By Tami Ganeles-Weiser

This salad is fun, delicious and bursts with genuine Mexican flavors and textures. Photograph by Tami Ganeles-Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen

Serves 6-8

For the salad:

½ cup amaranth
2½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
4 teaspoons salt, divided
4 cups water
3 medium (about 2 ¼ pounds total) frozen or fresh yucca, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium (about 3 pounds) butternut squash, or small Mexican calabaza (pumpkin), peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (about 2½ cups)
2 small jicama, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium ripe papaya, peeled and seeded and cut into ½ -inch dice
2 cubanelle peppers, stems and seeds removed, cut into ½ -inch dice
½ small bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 medium bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
12 to 15 large fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

For the dressing:

2 heads roasted garlic (see Kitchen Tip below)
Juice and zest of one large lime
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1) Combine the amaranth, stock and ½ teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan and heat over high until it comes to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and stir well. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes. Drain any excess stock and set aside to cool. This can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.

2) Combine the water and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a medium-sized saucepan set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Add the yucca, stir, and cook for 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove from the water and place on paper towels or in a strainer to drain and dry.

3) Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone cooking pads. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over each sheet. Arrange the yucca in a single layer on one and the squash on the other. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt each over the yucca and squash and turn with tongs gently to coat. Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes, until both the yucca and butternut squash are tender when pierced with a fork and the edges are browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.

4) Make the dressing: Combine the roasted garlic, lime juice and zest, salt and black pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until smooth. With the processor or blender running, drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture is thoroughly blended. 5) Combine the amaranth, squash, yucca, jicama,papaya, cubanelle pepper, cilantro, parsley and mint in a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently to coat. Add the tomatoes and toss. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Tip

To roast 2 whole heads of garlic, preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a sheet of foil for each head and coat each with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Slice off and discard the root end of 1 head of garlic and place it, cut-side-down, on 1 sheet of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Wrap the aluminum foil around the garlic. Repeat with the remaining head of garlic and 1 tablespoon oil. Place both parcels on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until the garlic is very soft and caramelized. Unwrap and squeeze out the clove from the heads to remove the softened, roasted garlic. Squeeze it into a small container. If you are not using it immediately, it will keep covered, in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Tami Ganeles-Weiser is a food anthropologist, trained chef, recipe developer, writer and founder of TheWeiserKitchen.com.(http://www.TheWeiserKitchen.com

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Is Amaranth the New Quinoa — and Is It Kosher?

By Tami Ganeles-Weiser

Photograph by Tami Ganeles-Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen

Move over, quinoa? Amaranth, its kissing cousin, is technically kosher for Passover… maybe. Or maybe not.

Amaranth is actually a category of about 60 different plant species that grow between five and eight feet tall, produce vibrantly colorful ornamental flowers, sprout copious amounts of wildly colored edible leaves and contain tens of thousand of nutritious, edible seeds. A member of the chard and spinach family, its cooked leaves taste like those other soft, leafy greens. Amaranth seeds, neither a grain nor a cereal, can be ground into flour. Amaranth has been widely used in traditional diets in parts of Mexico and throughout the Americas for centuries.

Amaranth has gone by many names through history: amaranto, ataco, coyolito, quihuicha sangorache and huauti. The seeds, as well as the greens, were a vital part of Aztec life in what is now Mexico, and the plants were domesticated long before the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in the New World.

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Chocolate Swirl Amaranth Breakfast Porridge

By Tami Ganeles-Weiser

Photograph by Tami Ganeles-Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen

Who says super-healthy food can’t be super delicious? Nutrition-packed amaranth gets a flavor boost from a chocolate swirl made with honey, cocoa, and cinnamon and a burst of flavor and texture from dried mango and banana and toasted almonds.

Serves 4

For the chocolate swirl:
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt

For the porridge:
1½ cups water, plus more hot water as needed
¾ cup amaranth seeds
2 teaspoons coconut oil or non-dairy, non-hydrogenated margarine
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup minced dried mango
¼ cup dehydrated banana, minced
1 cup toasted almond pieces (see Kitchen Tip below)

1) Make the chocolate swirl: Combine the honey, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a spoon and set aside.

2) Make the porridge: Combine the water and amaranth in a small saucepan set over medium heat, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the mixture is creamy. If the water is completely absorbed before the amaranth is cooked, add hot water as needed and continue to simmer until it is soft, but not falling apart.

3) Add the coconut oil or margarine and salt and stir well. Add the dried mango and bananas and stir to incorporate. Top with a generous drizzle of the chocolate swirl. Divide between serving bowls, garnish with the toasted almonds and serve immediately.

Kitchen Tip You can find toasted or roasted nuts in most supermarkets, but if you can’t, or if you prefer to roast your own, try this: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the nuts on it in a single layer and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, mixing the nuts with a long-handled spoon twice during roasting. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Tami Ganeles-Weiser is a food anthropologist, trained chef, recipe developer, writer and founder of TheWeiserKitchen.com.

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Amaranth Alegría Candies

By Tami Ganeles-Weiser

Photograph by Tami Ganeles-Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen

The Aztecs didn’t just grow and eat amaranth; they also used it in their religious practices. Today these candies are found all over Mexico. And yes, you can substitute an equal amount of toasted sesame seeds — it is delicious either way.

Makes 35 to 40 pieces

¾ cup amaranth seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
⅓ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup raisins
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon honey
2⅔ cups dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1) Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick vegetable oil spray and line it with parchment paper. Spray a spatula with a coating of nonstick vegetable oil spray and set aside.

2) Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the amaranth and toast, shaking the pan, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the some of the kernels pop. Transfer to a mixing bowl. (Some of the kernels will continue to pop.) Return the pan to the heat and when hot, add the sesame seeds and cook, shaking the pan for about 1 minute. Transfer to the bowl with the amaranth. Repeat with the almonds, transfer them to the bowl with the amaranth and reserve the pan. Add the raisins to the amaranth mixture and stir well.

3) Return the pan to the heat, add the water, honey, brown sugar and vanilla and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the syrup reaches the hard crack stage (see Kitchen Tip below) and a candy thermometer inserted into it reads 300° F to 310° F. Work carefully, as sugar at this temperature can cause painful burns.

4) Pour the candy over the amaranth mixture using the prepared spatula to fully coat it. Gently pour the mixture into the prepared sheet pan and using an offset spatula, spread out the mixture evenly to a thickness of ¼ to ½ inch. Sprinkle with salt.

5) When cool to the touch, use a very sharp knife to cut the candy into 1- by 1½-inch pieces or shards (or size of your choice), or break the sheet into pieces by hand. Allow to cool completely.

Kitchen Tip:

Making candy often requires the preparation of a sugar syrup. Sugar syrup goes through several stages as it cooks, its internal temperature rises, its water content evaporates and its sugar concentrates. The temperature of the syrup will determine its characteristics once you stop cooking it. Handle hot sugar carefully, as it can cause painful burns.

• Thread stage: 230° F to 235° F, the syrup is viscous and forms gooey threads when a bit is dropped into water.
• Soft-ball stage: 235° F to 240° F, the syrup forms a squishy ball when a bit is dropped in water.
• Firm-ball stage: 245° F to 250° F, the syrup forms a firm ball that can still be mashed when a bit is dropped in water.
• Hard-ball stage: 250° F to 265° F, the syrup forms a harder ball when a bit is dropped in water, though it is still somewhat malleable.
• Soft-crack stage: 270° F to 290° F, the syrup forms hard threads that will bend before they break when a bit is dropped in water.
• Hard-crack stage: 300° F to 310° F, the syrup forms hard, brittle threads when a bit is dropped in water.

Tami Ganeles-Weiser is a food anthropologist, trained chef, recipe developer, writer and founder of TheWeiserKitchen.com.

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Matzo Granola With Walnuts and Coconut

By Leah Koenig

Photograph by Sang An

Breakfast can be tough going during Passover. With toast, bagels, cereal, waffles, muffins, oatmeal and pretty much every other starchy breakfast staple off the menu, the options are seriously limited. Enter this granola.

The crumbled matzo that replaces the typical rolled oats gets toasty and crisp in the oven, and is then tossed with chopped walnuts, shredded coconut and raisins. I won’t promise that it will become your new year-round breakfast. (Very little can compare with a perfect stack of pancakes.) But I can promise that it will make Passover infinitely sweeter.

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Spinach-Matzo Lasagna

By Leah Koenig

Photograph by Sang An

Over the last decade, matzo lasagna has quickly and emphatically entered the Passover mainstream. Its rise has partly to do with the need it fills for a substantive main dish to serve during the holiday’s weeklong bread ban. The other reason for its popularity? It’s delicious, and remarkably so.

Softened matzo provides a convincingly noodle-like base for the rich ricotta and mozzarella, tangy marinara, and tender spinach threaded throughout the layers. I like to imagine that, fifty years from now, my future children and grandchildren will swear that Passover is not Passover without spinach-matzo lasagna.

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Is Horseradish the Real Bitter Herb?

By Jo Ann Gardner

Thinkstock

Only a Jewish plant lover with a penchant for the unusual could get naches from maror, the bitter herbs of Passover. These are the plants never named in the Bible except as merorim (singular, maror), which the Haggadah tells us to eat as a bitter reminder of the embittered lives of our enslaved ancestors in Egypt.

My knowledge of the subject, until I returned to the fold a number of years ago, was confined to childhood memories of horseradish on the Seder plate. But when I returned to Judaism on a back country farm in the wilds of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia in the early 1980s, it was with a passion for knowing about everything Jewish, a classic “awakening.” Then I encountered the horseradish problem. My problem with horseradish as a symbol of maror was:

1) Horseradish does not grow naturally in the Middle East.

2) Horseradish is pungent, not bitter (great with gefilte fish).

3) Horseradish is a root, not a bitter-leaved plant or a group of them, as suggested by the biblical phrase “merorim” in Exodus 12:8: “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roasted over the fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs (merorim).”

It also seemed improbable to me that in preparation for the Israelite’s hurried feast “with loins girded, sandals on your feet and staff in your hand” ready to flee captivity, they would have had the leisure to dig up a root that is notoriously difficult to dislodge. Sorry, it’s the practical gardener in me. Horseradish simply did not fill its assigned role, tradition notwithstanding.

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Who Still Makes Gefilte Fish?

By Dorothy Lipovenko

Whitefish finally in hand, it’s time to make the gefilte fish. Thinkstock

Like the fixings needed to make gefilte fish from scratch, I’m feeling like a fish out of water.

Question to my fellow balabustas busting a gut to gut our homes of chametz: Does anyone still make their own gefilte fish?

Are those of us who do just diehards or a dying breed, culinary Luddities who stubbornly resist serving (insert shudder here) imposters from a jar or the grocer’s freezer?

As one online poster commented: it’s all about the horseradish.

No, it isn’t.

The fear of not being able to procure the dynamic duo for gefilte fish (whitefish, carp) has gripped me for almost two weeks.

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A Seder Meal That Celebrates Its Sources

By Hedai Offaim

Sea fish with spinach and green garlic. Photographs by Dan Peretz

Ohad Levy’s restaurant sits atop a ridge, above lush green slopes. Below, a narrow, dusty road stretches away past some low houses, olive and banana groves and a few scattered fish ponds. Then comes another road that stretches down to the sea. The restaurant, Oratorio, is situated next to a new hotel that was formerly a workers’ retreat designed by the late architect Yaakov Rechter in Zichron Ya’akov.

Each morning, Levy gathers plants that grow around him, on the ridge and below it, and leaves his signature on everything he cooks, always remaining faithful to his sources. When you dine at his table, you can feel how his food began to take shape long before it was served. As in art, it begins with the thought or the inspiration, and then evolves and grows and is trimmed and revised, so that only the final story reaches the public.

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New Cookbook Offers Fresh Take on Holiday Food

By Jean Hanks

“‘The New Passover Menu’ has arrived in order to set you free,” Paula Shoyer tells readers in the introduction of her newest cookbook, published by Sterling Epicure. That promise, from the author of “The Holiday Kosher Baker,” intrigued me. From what would we be liberated? What I found was that the assortment of recipes in this book allows for two types of culinary freedom. For one, many of the dishes require everyday ingredients and are easy to prepare. This is a blessing for those who tend to get stressed out about how much time it takes to pull together a Passover Seder.

The second way the book offers liberation is through the absence of any recipes one might consider traditional for Passover. Instead, it offers creative variations on dishes like kugel, chicken soup and charoset. The kugel is asparagus, zucchini and leeks and the chicken soup includes chicken meatballs and zucchini spaghetti.

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Banana Charoset (No Kidding)

By Paula Shoyer

An audacious twist on a Passover staple. Photograph by Michael Bennett Kress

Charoset is the element on the Seder plate that represents the mortar used by the Israelite slaves to build bricks.

Growing up, I had Seders almost exclusively at my parents’ house or at a handful of other relatives’ homes, and everyone made the same charoset: walnuts, apples and sweet wine all smooshed together.

It was only when I began hosting my own Seders that I discovered a wide variety of charoset recipes from every corner of the world where Jews have ever resided.

This recipe comes from my friend Melissa Arking, who is a fabulous cook. I added chopped walnuts at the end for some texture.

Makes 3 cups (Serves 25 for Seder)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Advanced prep: May be made 3 days in advance
Equipment: Cutting board • Knives • Measuring cups and spoons • Food processor • Box grater • Silicone spatula • Small serving bowl

3 large ripe bananas
2 cups ground walnuts
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sweet kosher wine
2 apples, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
1 cup walnut halves, chopped into 1/3-inch pieces

1) In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, place the bananas, ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and wine. Process until the mixture comes together.

2) Transfer to a small bowl, add the apples and chopped walnuts, and stir to combine.

Note: You can buy nuts already ground, with the skin or without. I have a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding nuts. You can also use a food processor, as long as it can reduce the nuts to a fine grind, almost like a powder, when you need almond flour for baking. If you grind nuts for too long, you will end up with nut butter.

Reprinted with permission from New Passover Menu ©2015 by Paula Shoyer, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

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Crunchy Quinoa With Sweet Potatoes

By Paula Shoyer

Photograph by Michael Bennett Kress

Quinoa is the greatest new addition to the Passover pantry. It finally received definitive rabbinic approval for Passover in 2014, after a rabbi was dispatched to Peru and Bolivia to see how quinoa is grown.

He learned that quinoa grows at very high altitudes, while the grains that are prohibited on Passover are grown much farther below it. The authorities concluded that there was no risk of intermingling. My husband, Andy, eats quinoa with blueberries for breakfast all Passover long. This dish is a great combination of color and texture.

Serves 6–8

Prep time: 10 minutes; 30 minutes for quinoa to cool
Cook time: 30 minutes
Advance prep: Quinoa may be cooked or salad assembled 2 days in advance
Equipment: Measuring cups and spoons • Cutting board • Knives • Small saucepan • Roasting pan • Spatula • Small frying pan • Small bowl • Whisk • Large bowl

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 scallions, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

1) Preheat oven to 400° F.

2) To prepare the quinoa, place it in a small saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the water has evaporated. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, for at least half an hour. The quinoa may be cooked 2 days in advance and stored covered in the fridge.

3) Place the sweet potato cubes in a roasting pan and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Roast for 25 minutes, or until the cubes can be pierced with a fork. Set aside.

4) To prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil with the vinegar, honey, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

5) To assemble the dish, use a whisk to break apart any clumps of quinoa that may have formed as it cooled and transfer it to a large bowl. Add the dressing, and whisk well. Add the sweet potatoes, pine nuts, cranberries and scallions, and mix gently. Serve at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from New Passover Menu ©2015 by Paula Shoyer, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

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Sephardic Poached Fish in Pepper Sauce

By Paula Shoyer

Photograph by Michael Bennett Kress

This recipe is versatile and can be made with any type of white fish or salmon. You can really kick up the spice factor by adding a tablespoon of store-bought harissa or some more chili powder, hot paprika or red pepper flakes. This dish also can be served as a main course for lunch over the holiday.

Serves 6–8

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Advanced prep: May be made 3 days in advance
Equipment: Cutting board • Knives • Measuring cups and spoons • Large frying pan with 2-inch sides • Silicone spatula

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
1 orange pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon paprika
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper
¼–½ teaspoon chili powder, hot paprika or crushed red pepper flakes
1½ cups water
2 pounds white fish (such as tilapia, halibut or flounder) or salmon
2/3 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1) Cut fish into 2-by-5-inch long pieces, or fillets may be cut lengthwise in half. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large frying pan with 2-inch sides over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onions, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the red, orange and yellow peppers, and cook for another 4 minutes. Stir in the paprika, salt and black pepper to taste. Stir in the chili powder. Add the water, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.

2) Reduce the heat to low, place the fish slices on top of the garlic, onions and peppers, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Use a fork to pick up some of the peppers and onions and place them on top of the fish slices. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more salt if necessary. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from New Passover Menu ©2015 by Paula Shoyer, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

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The Weekly Dish

By Michael Kaminer

Breads Bakery’s new coconut chocolate chip cake. Photograph courtesy of Breads Bakery

Breads is rising. The Israeli-owned Union Square bakery, beloved by New Yorkers for artisanal loaves and luscious pastries, will take over one of the Bryant Park food kiosks relinquished by sandwich maker ’wichcraft, The New York Times reports. Chains like Le Pain Quotidien and Wafels & Dinges will occupy the other booths.

….In other Breads news, the bakery is upping its Passover game with four new sweet treats, along with its usual roster of irresistible KFP goodies. Look for chocolate pistachio cookies; coconut chocolate chip cake (pictured above); fruit tart; and rich chocolate mousse cake…

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Mouthwatering Orange-Scented Macaroons

By Gayle L. Squires

Photographs by Gayle L. Squires

The Passover tradition that’s been handed down from generation to generation in my family is the luxury of a catered Seder. But we’ve always supplemented the cookie and cake plate with extra desserts. At my grandparents’ table, it was Bubbe’s layered and fruit-studded gelatin mold. At my aunt’s, a large platter of sliced melon, citrus and berries. At my parents’, chocolate-covered cherry-marshmallow twists and chocolate cake from a mix.

When I emerged as the baker in the family, I became the de facto dessert maker. I have three simple guidelines for pre-afikoman treats: 1) avoid matzo or cake meal; 2) use as few bowls and utensils as possible; and 3) make something you would want to eat year-round. After much trial and error, I’ve narrowed my Passover repertoire down to a handful of reliable desserts that serve as solid basics, ready to be adapted from one Seder to the next.

Macaroons serve as a perfect blank canvas. While unadorned mounds of coconut, sugar and egg whites are pretty spectacular on their own, it’s the variations that get me jazzed. Sure, you can add cocoa powder and chocolate chips, but what about citrus zest, cinnamon or rose water? And while most recipes call for sweetened shredded coconut, I urge you to seek out the largest unsweetened flakes (sometimes called coconut chips) you can find for macaroons that offer the greatest contrast in texture with deeply golden, crispy edges and tender chewy insides. Then there are the toppings: chocolate to dip, salted caramel to drizzle or jam to bake into an indented thumbprint.

If you’re not sure where to begin, try the macaroon recipe below, adapted from chocolatier and cookbook author Alice Medrich. They’re laced with orange blossom water and flecked with orange zest. The first bite will make you feel as though you’re basking in a gentle Mediterranean breeze, getting you into the mood to conclude the Seder by singing l’shanah ha’abah bi-Y’rushalayim — next year in Jerusalem (or at least Tel Aviv).

Chag sameach and happy baking!

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Cooking for Passover Like a 5-Star Kosher Chef

By Marcy Oster

Inbal Hotel Jerusalem, where the chef offered an online how-to on holiday cooking. Courtesy Inbal Hotel.

(JTA) - At this time of year I always ask around to my friends and neighbors for new and creative Passover recipes — and if I can stand upright after chasing after crumbs of chametz, helping my kids prepare Torah commentary for the seder and changing over my kitchen to kosher for Passover, I even try one or two of them.

I never thought I would have the chance to get Passover recipes directly from the executive chef of a 5-star kosher hotel restaurant, however. And I am sure ready to eat restaurant-style food from the comfort of my own home.

Inbal Jerusalem Hotel executive chef Nir Elkayam showed me and anyone else who wanted to watch, how to make new and interesting dishes for the upcoming holiday in a live online demonstration, accompanied by a live chat where you could ask him all your Passover cooking questions.

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A Perfectly Modern Passover

By Alix Wall

This is an occasional column in which the writer evaluates a cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing the dishes with friends and asking those friends what they think of the results. For Passover, the writer cooked her way through “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen,” by Forward writer and contributing editor Leah Koenig.

In the introduction to “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen” (Chronicle Books), Leah Koenig writes that she felt a certain kind of freedom when she began hosting Sabbath dinners in her 20s.

Her grandmother had died before she was born, she writes, and as a teenager she showed no interest in how her mom made her “legendary latkes.”

“Because I had not inherited specific recipes, I felt free from any pressure to simply copy what I was taught, and free to improvise and add my own personality,” Koenig writes. “I was creating my Jewish repertoire from scratch, and doing it in my twenty-first century kitchen filled with vegetables from the farmers’ market and a sauce-splattered laptop that played music while I chopped. There, I could incorporate ingredients that fell outside the Eastern European repertoire I inherited, and cook in a way that felt true to my life.”

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Red Wine and Honey Brisket

By Leah Koenig

Photograph by Sang An

For many people, brisket is the Proustian madeleine of Jewish cooking. The rich, savory scent of caramelizing meat that perfumes the house as it cooks seems to stir people into a nostalgia-fueled fervor. There is no question that the brisket your bubbe made was the best ever, and you cannot compete with the layers of memories that flavor her version in your mind. That’s okay, because you have a few tricks of your own up your sleeve. This version slow-cooks the meat in a sweet and tangy mixture of honey and red wine until it sighs and falls apart at the touch of a fork. I included the red wine as a nod to stracotto, the Roman Jewish take on brisket, which simmers beef in wine and spices.

Brisket’s flavor and texture improve with age, so while you can certainly serve it right away, it will taste best if you make it a day in advance. Once the brisket has chilled in the refrigerator overnight, spoon off and discard any excess fat congealed at the top and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Thinly slice the brisket against the grain (meat is easier to slice when it’s cold), then place the slices back into the Dutch oven or roasting pan, spooning some of the saucy onion mixture over the top. Warm in a 300° F oven until hot and bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

Note: This recipe calls for second-cut brisket, which is sometimes referred to as deckle. It can be difficult to find second-cut brisket packaged in the grocery store, so ask your butcher about it. While you’re asking for things, see if the butcher will trim off any excess fat, too. If you have first-cut brisket on hand, go ahead and use it — the dish will still be delicious.

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