Keschem: A Passover Breakfast Worth Waiting For!

This post isn’t textile-art related. Tonight, however, is the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. And so I thought it was a great opportunity to share with you the recipe for my favorite Passover breakfast: Keschem.

This isn’t a fancy dish. Nor is it hard to make. But I find myself looking forward to it year after year. It’s especially good when my father makes it (he has a magic touch!), but when he’s not around my kids reluctantly let me make it instead. In fact, the kids like it so much that we sometimes cheat, and eat it even when it’s NOT Passover…

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Matzo Brei, the fried Matzo and egg dish. Well, this is a bit similar, only A LOT better.

Most people I know, even if they’re Jewish or Israeli, have never heard of Keschem. I don’t know which part of the world the recipe originated from. I also have no idea what the name Keschem means, or even what language it is (it doesn’t sound like Hebrew). Even my dad doesn’t know anything about its origins. But it’s been a long tradition in my family. My father grew up eating it every Passover, and he made sure that we did, too.

Here is how to make Keschem. Try it this week, when all the stores carry Matzos!

How To Make Keschem:

The following is for one portion. If you want more, multiply by the number of people you want to feed.

Ingredients:

2 Matzos

1 egg

Salt, pepper, ginger powder

(optional: sliced cheese)

Directions:

Run the matzos through running tap water, so they are wet but not soaked. Let them sit for a minute or so to absorb some of the water.

Crumble the matzos into small pieces, and put in a bowl. Add the egg. Add some salt, lots of pepper, and the secret ingredient: ginger powder. You can play with amounts according to taste.

With your hands, mix it all together.

Melt LOTS of butter in a frying pan.

When the butter is very hot, make patties from the mixture in the bowel and put in the pan. It works best if you make the patties small.

Fry until golden and crisp. Add butter as needed. Turn over and fry the other side. The crispier the better!

The Keschem is ready when both sides are golden and crispy. It is great as is. But if you want, you can add a slice of cheese while frying the second side. The cheese will melt into the patty by the time the bottom is ready, and will add to the taste.

Enjoy!

Don’t Turn That Grill On Before You Read This! My Mom’s Potato Salad with a Tweak

Summer officially arrived (with a record-breaking heat wave here in California!), which means it’s BBQ-season time!

Whenever we have a BBQ, I like to make my mom’s (slightly altered) potato salad as a side dish. This was a summer staple for my family when I was growing up, and I was only happy to adopt it as an adult (thanks mom!).

Over the years I received so many compliments on this dish, and so many friends have asked for the recipe, that I thought I will share it with you here. Make sure to try this potato salad next time you have a BBQ, or with any other meal, for that matter. It’s a great dish to share with friends, too!

Ingredients:

  • Half a sack of red potatoes (more if they are small)
  • Six/seven eggs
  • One jar pickles
  • Mayo
  • Mustard (my little addition!)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Cook the potatoes until soft (but not until they fall apart!). I cook them with the skin, as by the time they are ready all the germs are long dead. The skin is actually good for you, and adds lots of fiber!

At the same time, boil the eggs until they are hard boiled.

Peel the eggs and squish them in a bowl.

Cut the potatoes into small cube, and add to the bowl.

Cut the pickles into cubes, and add them, too. (Save the liquids to the end).

Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Add a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, to taste.

Finally, (and that’s my personal little tweak, which makes a big difference!) add a little mustard for an additional pop of flavor.

Mix everything together and taste. Adjust salt, pepper, mayo and mustard as needed. If the salad feels too dry, add some of the liquid remaining in the pickle jar.

This can be eaten while the potatoes are still warm, or after refrigeration. Leftovers can be refrigerated for several days, and still taste really good!

Enjoy your summer and happy BBQing!!

 

 

The Downsides of All-Inclusive Buffets

I am quite ambivalent about all-inclusive resorts. On the one hand, staying in one is a real treat, a rare luxury. Unlike active vacations that require a lot of planning, for an all-inclusive you just have to pack and show up. These kinds of vacations are the only ones that allow me to take a real break from the least-pleasant chores that come with motherhood: doing laundry, tidying up, buying groceries, cooking and washing all those dishes… And yet, at the infrequent times we go on one, I always end up feeling rather uncomfortable.

Part of my unease derives from my discomfort with the idea of having other people do basic chores for me. While it’s really nice to leave a room dirty and messy and return to find it clean and neat, I somehow feel guilty about the unseen hands that did the work. I know that my being there creates jobs for people, and that the money I spend helps them feed their families. But somehow I can’t shake off the feeling that I should be the one cleaning after myself (and my brood of pretty messy kids!). Having elves do my work just doesn’t feel right.

The part I find most disturbing is the all-inclusive buffet. Although I really enjoy walking into a well-stacked dining room, eating all I can, and then leaving without having to worry about dirty dishes, I still  find the entire setup concerning on many different levels.

For spring break this year my family and I traveled to Cancun, Mexico, and stayed at an all-inclusive resort. The place had multiple dining rooms, and they were all well stacked for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each meal included multiple dishes of every imaginable kind. Food was plentiful, and it was presented in a beautiful, artistic manner:

Great, no? Well … not really. The food was so beautiful, that we wanted to try everything. Since it was self-served, we often ended up taking more than we could ever eat. That lead to problem number one: The breakdown of all our hard-worked self-restraint. At home, I try to teach the kids to eat until they are full, and no more. With an all-inclusive buffet that goes to tatters. Everyone ate way too much.

Problem number two: Sadly, despite looking amazing and making us droll, most of that food didn’t actually taste all that good. We took one bite and didn’t want to finish. We ended up throwing much of it. Now, if you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you probably know that I’m quite obsessed with waste-preventing. At home I try to use things up as much as possible. I don’t buy more than we can eat. I creatively use leftovers. And on the rare occasions when food does get spoiled, I religiously compost it. So seeing my family (me included!) throw all that food was quite painful.

Problem number three: EVERYONE in the dining room was taking too much and eating too little. The amounts of food going to waste were staggering. I started wondering: all the waste at the resort completely dwarfed my obsessive conservation efforts at home. A year of my meticulous, daily efforts probably spared the planet less waste than was produced in one meal at the resort. I began doubting whether my efforts were really worthwhile, or whether they actually made any difference…

Problem number four: Several years of sever California drought put us all in water-conserving mode. Yet, here we were, at a place where plates disappeared seemingly on their own the minute you put your fork down. Every second, third or fourth helping came in its own new, clean plate. How much water did they use to wash all those dishes??? In the big scheme of things, did it really matter if we cut our shower time by another minute??

Problem number five had to do with desserts. I often tell the kids that it’s OK to eat everything, as long as it’s in moderation. We always have something sweet at home, and the children are always welcome to it. But they know (I think) to ration the unhealthy stuff. Well, the dessert tables at the all-inclusive buffets were the prettiest of them all! When I had to choose pictures for this post, I realized that the great majority of our food-pictures were those of desserts. I wonder why…

The result? We all loaded up on the least-healthy items, even when they, too, looked much better than they tasted. That, despite reading all the research about sugar being poison. We simply couldn’t help ourselves!

Last but not least, problem number six: Amidst all that food and all that waste, it was hard not to remember my grandmother’s chastising: “finish your food, because there are children in Africa who have nothing to eat.” The abundance inside the resort juxtaposed with the poverty and scarcity around it. The unfairness of it all was blatant.

In the end, in a rather masochistic way, I was happy to go back home, to my own simple cooking. I can’t help but wonder, though … does this happen to you, too, or am I the only one not able to enjoy too much of a good thing?

In Need of a Quick Dinner? Try a Spinach and Puff Pastry Roll!

We all have these days (weeks, sometimes!) when things just get really busy. We run around all day, doing the things we need to do, and the last thing we want to think about is dinner. But then, inevitably, a few younglings return home from school absolutely famished, and there is no choice but to cook something with which to fill their bellies.

Well, this week has been such a week for me. I’ve been gearing up for my first big craft fair this coming weekend, and the preparations just kept piling up (literally!). Therefore, I decided to make a Spinach and Puff Pastry Roll. This dish requires a bit of planning (mostly because it uses frozen ingredients, which should be taken out of the freezer in the morning to thaw), but is otherwise quick, easy, and fairly healthy. My kids absolutely love  this dish, and often end up fighting over the last piece. Consequently, I sometimes make two, just to keep everybody happy 🙂

It occurred to me that you might find use for the recipe, too. So here goes:

Spinach and Puff Pastry Roll

Ingredients:

Everything you need for a spinach and puff pastry roll

A package of 16 oz chopped frozen spinach

1 onion, peeled and chopped (if desired)

A pack of 6 oz crumbled Feta cheese

1 cup grated cheese (could be any hard cheese you like)

1 tbs flour

1 egg

A roll of frozen puff pastry

 

Directions:

In the morning, take the frozen spinach and the puff pastry out of the freezer, put the spinach in a bowl and leave on the counter top to thaw. 

Thaw frozen spinach

About an hour before dinner, fry the onion (if desired) and add it to the spinach. Add the feta, grated cheese, flour and egg and mix well.

Adding all the filling ingredients

Flatten the puff pastry out, and spread the spinach mix on the pastry.

Spreading filling on dough

Finally, roll it all together. Tighten the pastry’s edges (so that the filling does not spill out).

Put on a baking sheet, punch a couple of holes, and toss in the oven.

Bake roll in oven

Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until brown.

Ready spinach and puff pastry roll

I usually combine the spinach roll with a potato dish, some protein and a salad.

Spinach roll on the dinner plate

Enjoy!

On Friday Bake a Challah!

I used to try and bake a challah every Friday. Well, almost every Friday. I love waking up on Saturday mornings to a fresh slice of homemade bread and honey. Since I started sewing, however, my enthusiasm for baking seems to have decreased. Not because I no longer like it, but because I always seem to have other, more urgent things to do on Friday mornings. The silver lining is that when I do bake challahs these days, they are extremely popular. When I made them regularly, I was often the only one trying to eat the dried-up leftovers for Thursday breakfast. Now everyone fights over my loaves, leaving not a crumb by Saturday afternoon…

Today I decided to make time for challah baking, and it occurred to me that other people might like to try some, too.

My regular challah recipe is actually based on a Swiss Bernese Zupfe. Bread, it seems, unites many cultures, and maybe we should learn something from it…

Ingredients:

1 kg white flour

2 packs dried yeast (30 gr each)

1 tbs salt

1-2 tbs sugar
1 stick butter

2 cups milk

2 eggs

Preparation:

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add milk ,eggs and butter, and knead until you get a soft, non-sticky dough. Add milk if too dry, or flour if too wet, until you reach the right consistency.

Let rise for two hours. Punch down, knead again, and shape into whatever shape you want. I often braid my challahs, but sometimes I make them round. Every now and then I let the kids shape them whichever way they want. We recently had an elephant, a snail and several Pokemons.

Let rise again for another two hours.

You can now bake your bread, but if you would like a nicer finish this is the time to mix an egg with a bit of water in a small bowl, and brush it over your loaves. You can then spread sesame seeds or poppy seeds for an even nicer, more finished look.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, until your loaves are nice and brown.

Let cool.

Homemade Challah for Shabbat

Tip: it’s really nice to grab a slice while the challah is still warm. It’s especially tasty with melted butter on top!

Enjoy!