Nut-Free Haroset

Haroset opposite the butter lettuce on the Seder Plate Copyright ©Shuliemadnick

It's been a year since our flights to Israel were canceled. We were headed to spend Passover with our son, who lives there. It's been a year since the global pandemic changed our lives, and we yet again find ourselves for the second year in a row having the Seder all by ourselves.

But do not despair. I cooked for a tribe, anyway. I made our traditional Passover lamb biryani, the only matzah ball soup that I like, a Moroccan carrots salad, a version of this beet salad (without the sugar), haroset, hazeret (horseradish), egg salad, and many other side dishes and starters. For dessert I made kosher for Passover brownies. 

Believe it or not, but this haroset is nut-free, and no Manischewitz wine was used in the process of making it. It is a hybrid Sephardic and Ashkenazi haroset I came up with, on the fly, years ago, and it stuck with us for over a decade, maybe longer. It's better than the nut and wine version in my humble opinion. I posted a recipe for haroset in the past but planned on re-photographing it. It was also an excuse to show you our Seder plate and tweak the language of the recipe. The haroset is opposite the butter lettuce. Not a beauty but delicious on its own on matzah, or layer it with hazeret (horseradish) on the matzah. 

Jonathan, uncharacteristically, guzzled down two glasses of wine before we had a chance to arrive at the second cup of wine blessing. He was determined to read every single word in the Haggadah. Thank goodness that Jonathan somewhat lost steam after dinner. He insisted on opening the door for Elijah. While I was concerned about the critters and fox in our jungle outdoors gravitating towards the light and inviting scents of food indoors. Red wine was (accidentally) spilled on the white tablecloth, and we pounded the table at Dayenu or was it another song (?!). In short, chaos ensued. 

If you haven't caught my recent "Why do the Jews of India call Passover' The holiday of the covered clay pot with the sour liquid'?" article, head over, it's a quick and fun read. And if you want to learn more about India's largest Indian Jewish Community's Passover traditions, head over to "Discovering the Passover Traditions of India's Largest Jewish Community."

Nut-Free Haroset

Ingredients:

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into few pieces
14 dried apricots

Why do the Jews of India call Passover ‘The holiday of the covered clay pot with the sour liquid’?

iPhone screen shot by Shulie Madnick from The Forward from page

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, just before Passover on Saturday, my article, "Why do the Jews of India call Passover' The holiday of the covered clay pot with the sour liquid'?" was published in The Forward.

Today, March 29, 2021, the article was on The Forward's front page, in the News, since the morning and still now, at 3:40 pm as I am writing this post.

It's a quick, fun read. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as it was fun researching and writing it. It felt like an anthropological detective work trying to get to the bottom of the meaning of 'Anashi Dhakaicha San,' the name the Bene Israel Indian Jewish community for Passover and the tradition of the clay pot with the sour liquid. 

Biblical Rituals and Passover Traditions of the Bene Israel, India's Largest Jewish Community

 Bloody (korban) handprint in Revdanda, a village south of Mumbai ©ShulieMadnick

The  'Biblical Rituals and Passover Traditions of the Bene Israel, India's Largest Jewish Community' article was originally published in 2016 in Haaretz's English edition in Israel. It was also translated to Hebrew the same year. To curate my articles and recipes in one space, I am republishing it with some edits (listed at the bottom). 

The article was years in the making. It took countless hours researching, spending time at the Library of Congress, and conducting many interviews. My eventual visit to India, after I have published this article, gave me a more in-depth perspective and understanding. The article is a long, in-depth read. I hope with the quarantine; you will find the time to explore this unique Indian Jewish community and its disappearing traditions.

Biblical Rituals and Passover Traditions of the Bene Israel, India's Largest Jewish Community

“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.” Exodus 12:7

My mom has vivid childhood memories etched in her mind of visiting Virjoli, a village south of her hometown Mumbai, witnessing members of her Bene Israel community slaughtering a goat for Passover and marking their door posts and lintels with palms dipped in its blood. Virjoli, also known as Satamba, was my mom’s maternal grandparents’ village, where they owned much land and two homes.

Imagine my surprise, after growing up in a predominantly Indian household in Ashdod, living and breathing Indian Jewish culture and food, to only learn about this ritual on my most recent trip back to Israel last month. I had had myriad conversations with my mom and others in the Bene Israel community over the last three decades, yet only discovered this elusive-to-me custom during a Shabbat dinner in March. The stories were flowing out my mother that evening; on any other given day over the years she had been impatient with my questions and puzzled at my interest in the past.

The ritual, practiced in the community's native India but not imported along with the immigration to Israel, came from the only book the Bene Israel knew, the Torah. As inscribed: “For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt... And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:12-13.
“The Bene Israel, the Indian Jews, and the Beta Israel, the Ethiopian Jews, were the only two Jewish communities in the Diaspora who continued the ritual, which otherwise completely ceased to exist with the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.,”  noted Dr. Shalva Weil, a senior researcher, in an interview at her Hebrew University office. The Samaritans also practice the sacrifice custom, pointed out Sharon Horowitz, librarian at the Hebraic Collection at the U.S. Library of Congress.

Lamb Biryani for An Indian Passover

 The Layers of Lamb Biryani (Rice, Lamb, Rice, Garnishes) Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

The crown jewel in my mom's culinary arsenal is this luxurious, aromatic lamb biryani. Only the regional biryanis I have had in India lived up to my mom's. The Mumbai biryanis made me think of how my mom, who still several decades later, manages to preserve the flavors and encapsulate the essence of Maharashtrian cuisine in Israel.

This sensational lamb biryani is at the center of the Bene Israel Indian Jewish Community's Passover holiday table. The rice is infused with saffron and then layered with the curry-spiced leg of lamb and garnished with cashews, raisins, crispy onions, and cilantro chips. The juxtaposition of sweet and savory flavors, crunchy and soft textures and many colors create a festive dish that is a Bene Israeli Passover (and Rosh HaShanah) tradition.

Biryani is originally from Persia. It was brought to India by the Arabs and Mongols. Over the centuries, the native Indian communities adapted the dish and made it their own. Although ghee, clarified butter, and yogurt are often used in the dish, Indian Jews replaced those dairy ingredients with vegetable oil to create a kosher rendition.

"Biblical Rituals and Passover Traditions of the Bene Israel, India's Largest Jewish Community," published in Haaretz newspaper in 2016 and re-edited and curated here, explores further the Bene Israelis foods of Passover (in India, the community primarily used goat meat). The article also explores the community's over 2000 year history in India and its unique Passover traditions. 

Author's Notes:

1. Allergen alert: Those with a tree-nut allergy can leave out the cashews or substitute them with peanuts. 

2. Some of the preparations for this dish can be made a couple of days in advance. The entire dish can be fully assembled the day of. This recipe is long, but the steps are not particularly difficult. The end result is well worth the effort. 

3. At times, my mom also makes this biryani with a layer of potatoes at the bottom of the pot. The potatoes get crisp and golden, similar to the potatoes in the Persian tahdig. She then flips the pot into a serving dish for a showy presentation. I might share a simplified version of biryani with potatoes in the future. 

4. I edited this recipe since, in versions published in both the Forward and the Hadassah Magazine, I used garam masala to make the process easier. My masala mix for this biryani contains 13 spices. I make a large batch and save it in the freezer. It can get costly and time-consuming, especially if you don't cook Indian food often. To make life easier and lower the cost, I suggest you buy a ready-made curry mix. Either a chicken/meat masala or a biryani one. Bonus points if you score masala from the State of Maharashtra, which Mumbai is its Capital. The dry masala mix recipe I will share one of these days.

4. In this method, I fully cook the rice and not cook it al dente in water like pasta, then finish it off layered in the pot with the lamb covered in the oven, not over the stove. I will share the al dente method when I share the simplified biryani (or tahdig) with the potato layer at the bottom (see number 2).

5. You can add more cashews, raisins, cilantro leaves and onions, depending on taste. Just make sure to fry them (see directions below).

Lamb Biryani

Lamb Ingredients

2.2 pounds deboned leg of lamb, cut into small/medium-sized cubes
Water to cover
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt
2 - 3 bay leaves
8 -10 cloves

Quinoa Tabbouleh

©ShulieMadnick

In 2012 I published "Tabouleh - A Lebanese Parsley, Bulgur Wheat, Mint, Onion & Tomato Salad." at the time, I spelled tabouleh with one b. 

I shared many tips in that post. I won't repeat them all, but some still remain true, and some shifted somewhat. 

I recommended spinning dry the washed parsley after washing and before chopping, which is still the method I use today. If you have excess water in the salad, it will get soggy fast. 

I also mentioned that I prefer flat-leaf parsley, but the local market was out so I bought curly parsley instead.  Curley parsley tends to catch sand or soil, so wash it well before using it. The chopping part of the curly parsley was not as bad as I dreaded it. I rough chop and then use cleaver action to finely chop. The knife has to be sharp. I was also convinced the flavor is different, but I did not detect any flavor differences between the flat and the curly parsley. 

This time I used quinoa instead of bulgur (bulghur). Quinoa is protein-rich and gluten-free. You can use more quinoa than the 1/2 cup I used in this recipe. Cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the box (it's usually bringing up 2 cups of water to a boil, then adding in the quinoa and cooking for 20 minutes, covered, on low flame. But, for a 1 cup uncooked quinoa add 1 - 2 tbls oil and 1/8 - 1/4 tsp salt to the water before adding in the quinoa. It can be made ahead and refrigerated. Do not add quinoa while still hot/warm to the tabbouleh.)

If you do not like too much lemon, reduce the amount of acidity. Tomatoes get soggy, so you can add to individual serving unless you don't plan on leftovers when serving. 

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Ingredients:

3 large bunches parsley, bottom stems removed, and finely chopped
Leaves of  2 - 4 mint sprigs, finely chopped

Israeli Chocolate Balls

Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

Knowing that today will be hectic, I made a couscous soup, with meat and vegetables, and couscous last night and these chocolate balls, which are one of my son's favorite desserts. I hoped to mock a Shabbat dinner at lunch today since our son was flying back to Israel this afternoon. I had an environmental science class I am taking at a local university I had to hop on mid-day, so Jonathan heated up the food and had lunch with Sagie downstairs. While I had my lunch at a desk upstairs, muted and video turned off on Zoom. As Sagie headed into airport security and we hugged and wished him safe travels, I asked if he had some of the chocolate balls before leaving home. In our dash to get out the door, he forgot. 

Luckily these chocolate balls are easy to make. Since Sagie cooks Shabbat dinners for his roommates and himself, I am posting the recipe here for him and for you all. It's a tweaked recipe from a double batch recipe I first published on August 10, 2010.

There are million Israeli recipe versions to these chocolate balls, but this one is inspired by my mom's, whose main repertoire is Indian food but here and there mixed in with some Israeli recipes.

Israeli Chocolate Balls

makes about 20 balls

Ingredients:

250 grams Petite Beurre (or Israeli) biscuits (about 277 oz)
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup milk or water
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Cranberry Margarita

Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

I am becoming a cocktail blogger. Haha. Not really. I am hardly savvy in all matters spirits, but I always wished to publish and mostly photograph cocktails all these years writing. This is the first step in that direction—next, pours and splashes. Depending on how motivated I feel about it. 

Speaking of which, in the process of a fairly recent photography project, "un(tamed) stillness," I became obsessed with Edward Weston's style. See slides 3 and 4 in this slide show. Though this image of the cocktail here is pretty predictable and I haven't photographed this margarita from a creative viewpoint/angle, but I used an F22 aperture setting with several seconds of exposure in natural light. It creates a lusciousness to the image, with the light sweeping over the scene changing somewhat over the lapsing time. Full disclosure, this photoshoot was quick, I wanted to upload it to the blog fast, so I haven't applied all that I have learned in recent years about photographing liquid. 

There are many rules about Kosher for Passover wines and hard liquor. Again, I am not an expert on the subject, but I like a margarita now and then, so I share one here. For the most part, since tequilas are made with agave and aren't grain based, are Kosher for Passover, but without the worm in the bottle. Double-check which brands are Kosher for Passover, if you are strict about the rules. The orange liquors, triple sec and Cointreau, apparently aren't Kosher for Passover, so I substituted pulp-free orange juice instead. I love the salt on the rim, but I felt it was too casual and beachy for Passover, so I made these sugared cranberries and decorated the cocktail with it for a more festive presentation. 

Cranberry Margarita

makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

4.5 oz cranberry juice (6 shots)
1.5 oz tequila (2 shots), Kosher for Passover (or regular not on Passover
1 oz orange juice (1 1/3 shots) on Passover, or Triple Sec or Cointreau (not on Passover)
Juice of 1/2 lime

Onion Pakoras

Onion Pakoras
©ShulieMadnick

This Indian onion bajjia (pakoras/pakodas) is my mom's recipe.

Pakoras are Indian street food. We also had pakoras at home, growing up for a snack. Since I  started making these onion pakoras for Chanukah, I can't go back to plain ole' latkes.

Author's Notes:

1. Chickpea flour can be found in Indian grocery stores, many supermarkets, and online.

2. I usually work with my hands, but you can also use a tablespoon to scoop the batter and gently drops it into the hot oil. 

3. My mom makes the pakoras with 1 whisked egg, but many don't add an egg to the pakoras, which keeps it not only gluten-free but also vegan. 

4. Pakoras are traditionally deep-fried, but you can shallow fry the pakoras. You can use less than a cup of oil for the shallow frying. 

5. You can seed the green chilis/jalapeños if you wish for less heat. 

6. You can dice the onions instead of slicing and interchange some of the onions with different vegetables, like potatoes, spinach, parsnips, and some of your favorite veggies. You can get creative with the pakoras. Though always have an onion in the mix. 

7. Many add with garam masala or another masala (spice mix), grated fresh ginger, but I am a die-hard for my mom's recipe minus the egg. With that being said, there's no wrong. Add ginger if you wish and adjust spices and vegetables to your taste.

Onion Pakoras

Makes about 18 pakoras

Ingredients:

3 - 4 medium white or red onions (approx. 1.4 - 1.5 lbs), peeled, halved, and sliced thin
1-2 green green bird's eye chili, Thai chilis, serrano or jalapeños, stemmed, halved lengthwise and sliced thin into half moons & separated
1/3 - 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, finely chopped (approx. 1/2 -3/4 cup chopped)

(un)tamed stillness; a photography project


Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

You can click the three vertical dots, on the bottom left, to view the slideshow in a full screen mode.

(un)tamed stillness; an artist's statement:

(un)tamed stillness is an exercise in black and white. It's contradictory yet complementary to and within nature, the environment surrounding us, and our human selves. The restlessness, stillness, emptiness, and self-contentment, heightened by quarantine. The juxtaposition of time passing us by while seemingly standing still. 

(un)tamed stillness is an exercise in pushing the boundaries and thinking beyond my self-imposed inhibitions, learning to see beyond the obvious and within new algorithms. Reining in my love for color and transcending myself through monochromatic shades of grey.

In this series, I am creating earthy and textural organic images flowing seamlessly from outdoors to indoors, intertwining, transporting from the shore moving inland. The images have a cool desolate sense, yet are a reprieve of welcomed solitude and reverence. Spaces filled with familiar portraits and comforting glimmers of deep woods, dunes, and deserts, both near and reminiscent of a place 7,000 miles apart. A place where at the first glimpse of sparkling sand dunes and glistening sea bringing me instantaneously to a place where I find most at home where I find solace.

Baked Buttermilk Nutella Ganache Doughnuts

Baked Buttermilk Nutella Ganache Doughnuts
Baked Buttermilk Nutella Ganache Doughnuts @shulieMadnick

The recipe for 'Baked Buttermilk Nutella Ganache Doughnuts' below is the last out of three recipes originally published in The Washington Post Food section, on December 4, 2012. To curate my articles and recipes in one space I am republishing the recipe here, just before the first eve of Chanukah, falling on December 10 this year. The first two in the series were the 'Meyer Lemon Pastry Cream Mini Doughnuts' and 'Brandy Doughnuts With Dark Chocolate Marzipan and Strawberry Confiture.' All three doughnut recipes were published with the 'Doughnuts Best Filled with Chanukah Tradition' article. 

Please find a collection of Chanukah recipes at the bottom below the 'Baked Buttermilk Nutella Ganache Doughnuts' recipe.

I plan on Instagram LIVE cooking demos of Israeli doughnuts, latkes, and pakoras for Chanukah so FOLLOW ME on INSTAGRAM. I might have my son, who will be visiting for a month, as a guest on these demos. 
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Baked Buttermilk Nutella Ganache Doughnuts

Allergens: For those who are allergic to tree-nuts, substitute the Nutella with tree-nut-free chocolate spread.

For some of his baked doughnut recipes, pastry chef Gidon Ben Ezra uses a two-temperature method with a water bath in the oven. This recipe uses a higher temperature oven for a shorter baking time, and the doughnuts get added moisture from the buttermilk in the dough.

You'll need one or two doughnut baking pans. If you have a convection oven, turn the fan off when baking these.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to rise for 1 1/2 hour. The doughnuts needs to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Baked Buttermilk Nutella Ganache Doughnuts
makes dozen 

Doughnuts Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt