In a Nutshell:
Homemade almond milk
This is the drink that makes my house scream Pesach! 1 cup raw, unsalted almonds/cashews/macadamia nuts, or a mixture of all, soaked in 4 cups of water overnight (8–12 hours, but you can do 1–2 hours if you forget to do it in advance), drain and rinse them well, and then blend in a blender or food processor with 4 cups of water. If you want, you can add 2–3 dates, pitted, ½–1 tsp vanilla extract, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and/or a pinch of sea salt.
Place a fine mesh bag over a bowl and strain. Squeeze bottom of bag (takes some time to get out all the liquid). Lasts 3–4 days.
FT, help me!!
How do I know when my egg whites are sufficiently whipped?
The best way to whip egg whites is to start with your mixer on low. Egg whites (at room temp) will begin to form little bubbles, and they’ll still be basically clear. Gradually increase the speed of your mixer (I also add the egg whites one at a time while the mixer is on low) until they double/triple in volume and have turned white. That’s whipped egg whites. Soft peaks barely hold their shape. Stiff peaks is when you can hold the bowl upside down over your head and the egg whites stay put.
How do I know when my meat is done?
For medium-rare meat, it should register 125–130°F (52–54°C) with a meat thermometer, and when you press down on the meat with a finger, there should still be a little give. If you can easily press down, it’s too rare.
For braised meats, the best way to check for doneness is to insert a fork. It should release with ease.
Any tips on reheating leftovers?
It’s best to think about how the food was originally cooked. If something (like schnitzel) was cooked uncovered on high heat, that’s the best way to reheat it. If it was a roast that was braised covered at a low heat, that would also be the best way to reheat it. Some foods, like roasted vegetables, are far better at room temperature than reheated.
—Miriam (Pascal) Cohen
I’ve always loved mushrooms, and one of the most readily available “exotic” mushrooms are enoki mushrooms, those thin long strands of mushrooms that are sold in small packs. Their texture is unique — they have that classic mushroom squeakiness, but also a very interesting crunch that larger mushrooms generally don’t have. They’re fantastic in soups, stir-fries, tempuras, omelets, used raw as a garnish, really anything.
I also love using mushroom powder. You can make it yourself by buying dried mushrooms or dehydrating your own mushrooms and grinding them in a spice grinder.
What’s your favorite/most used disposable item?
Gloves! I can’t work without them!
Crepes are the gateway food to get my picky eaters to inhale eggs… We make dozens of them. I doubt they would be as smooth without my handy-dandy whisk. I make the batter and mix it with the whisk between every batch because when it sits there it starts to clump!
Pesach grab-and-go filler-upper food…
Is anything grab-and-go on Pesach besides fruit, yogurt, and cheese? I feel like matzah is the only thing that fills people up! Our charoset is thick (dates, nuts, raisins, and wine) so it’s a good spread to have on hand for matzah. I always make extra.
What’s the number-one ingredient bought in largest quantity in your house?
It’s a tough call — eggs and potatoes are both winners. When we have lots of guests, we go through several cases of each.
The dish I wish someone would make for me as a pick-me-up:
SALAD! Now before you roll eyes, hear me out. If someone is making me something fresh and delicious and homemade, I’m not looking for something I can get at a restaurant, right. So, I want someone to do the job I don’t want to do… wash and check all the vegetables to make a delicious, fresh, textured salad with bright crisp greens, all the veggies, something for crunch, a yummy protein, and, of course, a dressing that’s so good, you need to have a salad again for dinner just to have it again!
The one ingredient I miss over Pesach...
The truth is my cooking doesn’t change much for Pesach (I cook all year with lots of produce and fresh ingredients), but if I would have to choose one “ingredient,” I would say fermented food. Technically you can have them on Pesach, but since I don’t have a designated Pesach space, I can’t prepare them in advance.
—Chaya Suri Leitner
Favorite vegetable to add to salads…
Jicama! Crunchy, mild, and so fresh. And this isn’t a vegetable, but… candied or salted toasted medley nuts.
The dish I wish someone would make instead of me is...
What’s one trick to freezing food?
The key to freezing kugels is not defrosting them before you heat them. If you put them straight from the freezer into the oven, all the ice particles trapped in the food evaporate, and the food gets yummy and crispy. Otherwise, the ice particles defrost in the food, and it gets soggy.
What are your favorite Chol Hamoed snacks?
Fruits, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, those are good basics and really nutritious and easy and portable. Nuts are great. I often make date biscotti, which is super easy to transport because it doesn’t get mushy. It’s only made with dates and nut butter, so it’s healthy and filling, not to mention delicious!
Any helpful tips on keeping your fridge neat over a long Yom Tov?
»Always put fresher food in the back of the fridge.
»Try to use similar size and shape containers to make stacking more organized.
»When a container is mostly empty, transfer the food in it to a smaller container.
»Always put small items on the fridge door or in a bin.
»Have a designated spot in the fridge for basics like eggs, milk, and juice.
»Use foil pan covers, not foil, for easier stacking.
»Label the sides of the pans so you can find things easily.
»Don’t overstuff your fridge. Take advantage of cool basements, garages, and extra refrigerators.
What do you serve your family the days leading up to Pesach?
I’m often using up all the leftovers from my freezers during these days — which means sometimes being creative with things like pizza dough rounds (they turn into anything from meat knishes to mini veggie-topped crackers) or fruit crisps for Shabbos dessert out of leftover frozen fruit and oatmeal I need to use up.
Since my married kids fly in for Yom Tov, I also have to make suppers for large numbers of people. I try to prepare some dinners ahead of time, so I don’t have to be busy cooking that last hectic week, or I serve a smorgasbord of leftovers I dig up, along with hot deli sandwiches. (I often freeze leftover cold cuts from Shabbos to use in salads, sandwiches, or meat pizzas in a pinch; once warmed with sautéed onions and some sauce, they taste great!)
How do you make long Pesach kitchen prep ’n cook days go faster?
Prepping and cooking for Pesach is time consuming by default, since there’s just so much to do! I try to keep the Seder menus minimal (we’re full from all the matzah!) and I think ahead when prepping. I’ll make doubles of as many things as I can (salatim, roasts, etc.) and freeze for second days so that even if I’m in the kitchen all day, I can shave off cooking tasks ahead. Plus, a good shiur and fun music make the tasks so much more enjoyable!
(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 787)
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