Monday, March 30, 2015

Chaos Rising

Passover is chaos. There really is no other word for it, the explosion of noise and activity that lands on my parent's house over the holiday. It's inevitable and there's nothing to do but to embrace it and hold on tight.

I always have big plans for what I want to cook over Passover. My mother and I begin swapping recipes months in advance and I'm always looking for the most exciting, interesting things to make. My mother, on the other hand, is more practical, and is always looking for the things that are the easy and traditional. This year, our positions are reversed. I sent my mother the easiest, simplest recipe for roast I have ever encountered. It is also one of the best. My mother said, well, I was thinking about lamb if I could find it.

I envision my mother's Passover kitchen-long and narrow. Someone, one my nieces, is asking for a sweet omelet for breakfast. Another wants yogurt. A third is asking if they can help with the meringues, because I am always making meringues. My brother is making coffee. My hands are probably coated in sugar, or egg whites, or something. This is Passover. I think, lamb. Yes, lamb is good. I love lamb, though I'm really the only one in my family who does. Lamb should be seared, just right, then eased  between carrots and potatoes and onion and garlic and red wine. I envision myself standing over the stove searing that lamb, the oil jumping and hitting my skin, while my sister is reaching over me putting up a pot of potatoes to boil and my mother wants to check on something in the oven. I think, nah. Why don't we do away with the searing, and the onions and potatoes and carrots. Let's just open a can of tomatoes, leave the garlic unpeeled and just stick everything in the oven. It doesn't all have to be chaos and noise.

 Let's just do that.

Happy Passover.

Braised Beef with Tomatoes and Garlic

From Smitten Kitchen

28 ounces canned tomatoes
1 3 lb chuck roast
1 head of garlic, cloves separated, but unpeeled.

1. Preheat the oven to 300 F. If using whole canned tomatoes, give em a good chop. If not, place the roast in a heavy oven-proof pot or casserole. Pour the tomatoes over the meat and then add the garlic. Season well with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and braise for 3-4 hours, until tender. Serve sliced or just falling apart with the sauce and garlic.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Continuing a trend from my previous post, I am not very good at this whole "do it yourself" thing. I'd like to be making my own jam, but I'm also afraid of giving everybody botulism. I've made my own ricotta cheese a few times, and it's been pretty good, but I can't really find a recipe that I like enough to keep on ruining perfectly good cotton towels for (don't get me started on the lack of cheesecloth around here).Once, I tried to make a necklace out of an old t-shirt, because Pinterest said it was easy. I don't want to talk about the results. But the internet promised homemade Kahlua  with no waiting time, and it was almost Purim, and I was working from home and I needed to procrastinate take a break, what else was I going to do? It was the perfect procrastinating break recipe, after all- just a few ingredients, and almost zero work time. I was dubious, but I figured, why not?

I have never gotten so many requests for a recipe before. It's possible that said requests were the result of inebriation and not the quality of the actual liquor, but having tasted the liquor while sober, I have to say it was pretty gosh-darn good. It was sweet without being cloying and had a deep coffee flavor that somehow managed to not be overwhelming. I even got a few coffee-haters (heathens) to drink it and like it. Beat that, suckers.

So here, by request, is Homemade Kahlua:
Adapted from The Graceful Kitchen

I cut this recipe in half, because 4 cups of liquor is a lot if you don't have empty bottles to store it in. Feel free to use the original measurements.

1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee
1 cup vodka (don't waste the good stuff on this-use something cheap)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, water and coffee. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 2-2 1/2 hours until you are left with a dark thick coffee-flavored syrup. Cool.

2. When cool add the vodka and the vanilla extract and bottle.

Happy Drinking!