Time was, when planning my Passover menu, I’d pore over cookbooks and magazines, wade through those yellowing newspaper clippings that I’m going to file some day – I swear – or just call Aunt Sally. But these days, with the click of a mouse, I can lean over a virtual back fence and schmooze with several thousand Internet neighbors from Albuquerque to New Zealand to exchange recipes and customs or solve culinary crises.
“We’re now five generations or so from the great immigrations,” said Brian Mailman (yes, his real name), owner and moderator of the Jewish Food List, established in 1996 as an international email community, now with almost 2,200 members from 45 countries and focused on Jewish food, cooking history and traditions.
“A lot of knowledge is getting lost by assimilation and attenuation,” he told me. “One of the nicer functions of the list is that the younger folk wanting to ‘return’ are tutored by the empty-nesters who are eager to share, kids asking the village elders some of the basic how-to’s and how much’s.”
I am recovering from spine surgery more slowly then anticipated and am trying to cook ahead for the two seders, since I expect at least 25 people each night. Does anyone know if the Passover bagels can be frozen before baking?— Judy Sobel, Atlanta
Judy – Recovering from serious surgery demands serious support. Allow others to help with cooking and serving. You don’t need recipes; you need rest. Passover is about freedom, not slavery. Feel free to forward this to your 25 guests.
— Ruth Wasserteil Baks, Jerusalem P.S. Two seders, you say? Forward this twice.
“Members range from ultra orthodox to not even Jewish, from barely past teens to well into their 80’s, from hardly able to boil water to full professionals,” said Mailman, who was classically trained in French cuisine and has written for the UJC, Empire Kosher, and the Orthodox Union. In addition to the recipes, you will also find information on holiday menus, food preparation techniques, cookbook resources, restaurant reviews, and kashrut.
Members include cookbook authors Norene Gilletz of Toronto (“The Food Processor Bible”), Eileen Goltz of Indiana (“Perfectly Pareve”), Joan Rundo of Milan (her cookbooks are in Italian), Sheilah Kaufman of Maryland (“The Turkish Cookbook”), chef Gershon Schwadron of St. Louis and caterer Shira Dean of Houston. Kosher food specialist Arlene Mathes-Scharf of Massachusetts operates kashrut.com. Writer Judith Bron from Monsey, New York, is legally blind and communicates via talking computer. And then there are hundreds of foodies, like Elaine Radis of Framingham, Massachusetts, whose Passover recipe collection numbers over 1,500.
At my dentist’s today I picked up an old Gourmet magazine with a Passover article on a cookbook called “The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews.” Unfortunately the recipes were ripped out. Does someone have the recipe for the Porcini Matzo Polenta Wedges?
— Eliane Driessen, Amsterdam
Within hours Nancy Berry of San Francisco and Maxine Wolfson of Rhode Island located it (and you can too at epicurious.com.) Even non-members may go to jewishfood-list.com and browse the recipes, 2,800 entries and counting (at least 800 for Passover), archived by member Dr. Mort Goldberg of Tennessee, a retired veterinarian.
Pardon me for using the list for a not specifically Jewish food purpose, but I need to know how to make candied orange peel.
— Kathy Hertzler, Pennsylvania
Our definition of “Jewish food” is any food that can be prepared according to kashrut. I find this to be the most inclusive of definitions. Besides, oranges are very Israeli!
— Brian Mailman, list moderator, San Francisco.
This one needs no introduction:
My family will gather at my sister’s house in Ohio for the seders. Last night my mother told me that my sister has decided that I will do the cooking for all these people. (Clearly, there is a history here that I needn’t go into!) There will be ten of us ranging from my near senile father who is diabetic (and cheats like a madman), to my mother who treats any form of fat as treyfe, to my seven-year-old great nephew who eats only Empire brand chickens (prepared many ways so long as other ingredients aren’t too big…sigh). Oh, and my nephew, who’s a manager for a gourmet caterer. What can I serve that will satisfy all, yet not shame me in front of my nephew?
— Phyllis Johnpoll-Wilson, Vancouver, Washington
Besides recipes and cooking tips, the daily emails awaken forgotten food fantasies. Dalia Carmel of Manhattan, who owns over 5,000 cookbooks, remembers growing up in Israel when eggs were rationed to five per week for their family of three. “As a result my mother and I were dreaming of the day that we could eat as many eggs as we wanted. In 1951 we were invited to a seder by relatives who raised chickens. On the table was a large bowl filled with peeled hard-boiled eggs. I managed to consume nine!”
Recipes the members post come from everywhere: neighbors and friends, original creations, Internet sites, newspapers, magazines and cookbooks, such as “Matzo” by Michele Streit Heilbrun, the “matzo heiress” (yes, that Streit!) “TNT” above a recipe designates it is tried and true. As Passover gets closer and the recipes pour in, one member wails: All these desserts are making me fat! They sound so delicious, I want to make them all!
— Leslie Hoddeson, Scarsdale, New York
To join the Jewish Food List send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
L.E.O. Matzo Brei
The classic lox, eggs, and onions combines with matzo brei to make these two iconic dishes even more beloved.
Yield: 4 servings
4 sheets of matzo
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces lox or smoked salmon, cut into ½-inch-wide strips
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1½ tablespoons drained capers
- Run each sheet of matzo under cold running water for 15 seconds until it just begins to soften but isn’t falling apart. Break into 11/2-inch pieces and set aside.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion slices in single layer and cook without stirring until they turn dark brown in spots, 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining butter, stir onions, and continue to cook until evenly golden brown, 4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, beat eggs in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in matzo and soak 1 minute.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Add egg-matzo mixture; gently stir as though for scrambled eggs. Once eggs begin to set, about 3 minutes, add lox, dill, chives, and capers. Continue to stir until eggs are cooked through but still soft, about 1 minute, or to desired consistency.
Rocky Road Truffles
Yield: About 36
1 cup matzo farfel
1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
12 ounces dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
2½ teaspoons margarine or butter
1/2 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
¾ cup mini marshmallows
1 tablespoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line two baking sheets with foil; spread farfel on one sheet and nuts on the other. Place both sheets in oven and bake until farfel and nuts are lightly toasted and aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove from oven, and roughly chop nuts.
- Combine chocolate, margarine, and almond milk in saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly with rubber spatula until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Pour chocolate mixture into large bowl and set aside 15 minutes to cool. Fold in marshmallows and farfel. Place bowl in refrigerator to chill and thicken, about 1 hour.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Using your hands, roll 2 teaspoons chocolate mixture into a ball. Roll through chopped nuts to coat and set on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chocolate mixture and nuts. Sprinkle small pinch of sea salt on top of each truffle. Refrigerate truffles to firm up, about 1 hour. Store in airtight container at room temperature 2-3 weeks or in freezer up to 3 months.
Source: “Matzo” by Michele Streit Heilbrun (Clarkson Potter, $14.99)
JEWISH FOOD EDITOR JUDY BART KANCIGOR is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.