on horseradish and connecting

05 Apr

I loved this article by Azriela Jaffe printed last year in Mishpacha Magazine and wanted to share it with you.

Pesach 2011 Lifetakes
I want to Cry
By Azriela Jaffe

My husband Stephen likes his maror very very hot. He grows his own horseradish,
planted from the crowns from the year before, and we are now accustomed to our
family Pesach ritual. At the precise time in the seder, Stephen chops himself a
pile of fresh, did I say, very, very, hot horseradish which he places in a pile
on top of his shmura matzoh. He offers the same to the rest of us. I always
pass, and our braver than me children take a smidgeon of it and place it on
their matzoh. And then, as my husband eagerly bites into his maror sandwich, we
all hold our breaths and pray. We watch him catch his breath, his eyes watering,
and the pain registering on his face. For one of the longest minutes I’ve ever
experienced, I watch Stephen survive yet again another torturous, self-inflicted
assault on his sinuses.

Every year, I ask myself, why does he do this to himself?

And every year, I know the answer, and I admire him for it. He wants to feel
pain. He’s not satisfied with his Pesach seder unless he’s cried real tears; the
horseradish gets him there.

I want to cry real tears at our seder. I want to feel close to those who have
come before me, to those who have sacrificed for me, to those ancestors who
stood at Har Sinai, and were willing to give up everything close and familiar to
follow Hashem.

I want to cry tears that aren’t from too much scrubbing, too little sleep, and
no extended family at our seder. I want to cry out because we are in golus,
because Jews in Israel and all over the world are suffering, because there are
boys in Japan still in jail, and Rabbi Mordechai Rubashkin is still locked up
and not spending Pesach with his family, and because there are so many unmarried
singles looking for a shidduch. I want to cry for the Meshulachim in desperate
circumstances who ring our doorbell late at night begging for dollars. I want to
cry for the Jews who don’t know Torah, and the Jews who once did and have turned
away. I want to cry for the young mothers who didn’t survive to raise their
children, and the young women who never experienced the joy of being a mother. I
want to cry for the impoverished, and the sick, and the unemployed, the victims
of domestic abuse, the Agunahs and Almonahs who cry alone.

I want to cry at our seder because when we say the words, “Next Year in
Jerusalem”, for me, they are just words. I don’t really mean it, and I don’t
really want it, and I want to cry from admitting that I am so comfortable with
my cushy American life, I can’t even pretend that I wish I were in Israel. To
visit, yes. Please G-d, oh, would I love to visit. To live, no. I’m very
comfortable in my American life, far removed from the slavery of my ancestors,
and equally disconnected from my brethren in Israel. I want to be brave enough
to take a bite of my husband’s maror, to cry copius tears, and to satisfy myself
that my heart has opened, and I have felt something, anything, please Hashem
connect me. Take me from my dining room table, in my cozy, New Jersey home with
paintings of Rabbeim and the Kosel on my wall, and transport me, so that I will
know that I am truly a link in a chain, extending through history, never to be

Next Year in Jerusalem.

I look at my husband, crying over his horseradish, and I envy his tears. His
pain is real. He is connected. And I know that he figured it out, how to live in
Golus, without losing track of who he really is, where he really belongs.

I’m not there yet. I’m not sure that horseradish will get me there, either. I
stand before you, Hashem, and I plead with you. Let me not go through another
Pesach seder alone. I am so enslaved to Western comfort and I have so far to go.

I am crying out to You now. Hear me. See me. Accept my prayers, and my tears.

Next year in Jerusalem.

Let my heart want it, believe it, accept it.


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my mother’s famous pesach sponge cake

04 Apr

Today I got to the best part – cooking in the Pesachdike kitchen!  I made 5 recipes of this cake, 3 in tube pans, one on a huge cookie sheet, and one as 3 9-inch rounds.  As you already know, my mother is a cook and baker par excellence.  She puts her heart and soul into the food that she makes and it shows!  This is her famous, classic Pesach sponge cake.  It is elegant served all on its own or you can turn it into a strawberry shortcake by layering with strawberry jam and strawberry whipped cream.


8 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup oil

1/3 cup orange juice

3/4 cup potato starch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the yolks in a bowl with 1/2-cup sugar until pale yellow in color. Add the oil and orange juice.
Add potato starch. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until frothy.  Slowly add the remaining 1/2-cup sugar, until the egg whites hold a definite shape, but are
not dry. Fold into the yolk mixture.
Pour into a 10” tube pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Turn the pan upside down to cool.  Most tube pans have 3 “legs” to stand on.  If yours doesn’t, turn the pan over and center the middle over a bottle that fits into the hole.  Once cool, freeze the cake before removing from pan.


payard patisserie flourless & butterless chocolate cookies

04 Apr

These cookies are outragously dark and delicious and almost ridiculously easy to make.  They don’t contain potato starch so they don’t taste pesachdig and there’s never a crumb of these left after pesach!  This recipe was printed in a Feb/Mar 2006 issue of Chocolatier Magazine.


  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tblsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped



1.  Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

2.  With the padle attachment mix cocoa, confectionary sugar and salt on low for 1 minute.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk the whites and vanilla.  With the mixer on, slowly add whites to dry ingredients.  Turn speed up to medium and mix 2 minutes.

4.  Using 1/4 cup measure, scoop and mound batter, spacing 3-inches apart.

5.  Place pan in oven and immediately lower the temperature to 320 degrees.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until small, thin cracks appear on the surface.

6.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely


Yield:  Approx. 18



homemade chrain (beet horseradish)

04 Apr

Of all the marvelous recipes I have culled from my machatenista in Antwerp, this one serves me year in and year out.  Although I have yet to use the cloves and bay leaves because I haven’t had them in the house while making it, I hope to do so this year.  When you first taste the chrain, it will seem very sharp but it loses most of its oomph after a few days.  This recipe literally makes enough for a whole year and freezes beautifully!


11 lbs beets

4-5 lbs horseradish (she actually uses double this amount but this is strong enough for me!)

3 cups vinegar

2 cups water

15 cloves

6 bay leaves

salt to taste

pepper to taste

sugar to taste (With all the sprinkling, I think I put in at least a cup)


This is the second cooking batch. I didn't have a big enough pot for all the beets at once

1.  Cook beets in water with cloves and bay leaves.  Drain, reserving some liquid.

2.  When cooled, peel and grate the beets on a fine grater.

3.  Peel and grate the horseradish.  Add to the beets along with the vinegar and water. 

4.  Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste.  Add some of the reserved beet liquid if it seems dry.



8-hour bistro brisket

04 Apr

In Gail Zweigenthal’s Letter from the Editor, in the April ’98 issue of Gourmet Magazine, she gives this incredible recipe for the softest, most delicious braised brisket, perfect for the seder or any Yom Tov meal.  I have made this recipe so many times that my copy is practically illegible, save for the words that I have written over the print with a pen in my own handwriting.  The title says 8 hours – that is only the baking time, there is a 24-48 hour marinating time so plan accordingly.

INGREDIENTS (and there are many):

for marinade:

  • 4-5 lb. second cut beef brisket (the first cut is too dry)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 celery ribs
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • two 750 ml bottles of dry white wine

for baking/sauce:

  • 6 large onions
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lg vine ripened tomatoes
  • 1 dried ancho or chipotle chili (use what you can find)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I omit)



Make Marinade:

Chop onion, carrots and celery and crush garlic cloves with a knife or in the food processor.  With a mortal and pestle coarsely crush peppercorns.

In a non-reactive dish just large enough to hold the roast, combine marinade ingredients, top with meat and pour the wine over it.  The wine should almost cover the entire roast.  Cover well with silver foil and marinate in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.


Slice 6 onions crosswise into 1/4-inch rings.  In a large heavy skillet, cook onion and sugar in oil, mixing occasionally until onions are tender and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Cool onion and reserve half, covered and chilled to serve with the roast.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Coarsely chop tomatoes, and wearing rubber gloves, seed the chile and cut into 1/2-inch pieces with a scissor.  Transfer the meat to a deep roasting pan, just large enough to hold it and scatter tomatoes, chili, garlic, black pepper and nutmeg and remaining cooked onions around the meat.  Drain marinade in a strainer set over a bowl since you will be using the liquid for baking the roast, while finding another use for the vegetables or discarding them.  Pour enough marinade liquid over the meat to almost cover, reserving the rest to add during cooking.

Cover the pan with a double thickness of foil and bake for 7 hours checking periodically to add more marinade liquid if necessary to keep the roast almost covered at all times.

At this point you can continue the recipe or cool and chill for a day or 2 in the fridge before continuing.

Braise brisket, uncovered, in the oven, basting occasionally with pan juices and allowing the liquid to reduce to a sauce, about 1 hour.  Reheat reserved onions until heated through.

Transfer brisket to a cutting board and cut across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices.  Skim fat from pan juices and mash vegetables into juices with a fork.  Arrange meat on a deep platter with sauce and onions.

Serves 8



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recipes on yumkosher that can adapt to pesach

04 Apr

There are many all year round recipes that can be made on Pesach or adapted to Pesach use.  Here are a couple of great recipes from this blog (both gebrokts) which will enhance your Yom Tov.


Use matzah farfel instead of oats.  Follow rest of directions.  Enjoy with milk or yogurt and fresh fruit.



Substitute the graham crackers for Pesach machine matzoh boards by lining a cookies sheet with the matzah.  Follow rest of directions.


pesach is in the air!

27 Mar

I love Pesach for its down to earth, back to the basics frame of mind, and because I love the kitchen and Pesach affords me the time and opportunity to cook and bake with the most basic ingredients.

Pesach in the RAAWWW!  We’ve come a long way since the time that the only available kosher for Pesach items were potato starch, hisachdus salt, black pepper, and oil!  In my day, we already had chocolate syrup, chocolate bars, mayonnaise and, of course, Kedem raspberry syrup.  Not to mention a host of other products which my Mother did not deem in necessary to use.  We learned, above all how to do without.  We didn’t buy ground nuts.  We had bowls of whole walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts which we shelled for eating and baking.  And we did not have the convenience of purchasing pre checked, bug-free lettuce.  In those days, year round salads were comprised of iceberg lettuce, which we would cut into chunks (non checked!).  On Pesach, we bought Romaine lettuce, as a bitter herb and sometimes we mixed it with Belgian endives.  The endives did not need checking but the Romaine checking was a project delegated to my father and often started when he came home from shul seder night!

We’ve come a long way since those days of few available Pesach items.  Today there are Pesach stores dedicated to Pesach items, and even small Mom and Pop groceries (of which there are few left today!) have an aisle or two of Kosher L’Pesach items.

I must say that I get upset when I see blatant retakes on such chometz items as breakfast cereals, pasta, and even pizza and rolls (frozen) being marketed and sold.  How will the next generation view Pesach?  Certainly not with the “we can live without it” mentality that we were brought up with.  In our generation of  “anything goes”, and with our kids seeing little or no deprivation on Pesach,  is it surprising that unfortunately, for many youths, this mentality carries over into their every day life?

What can’t you live without for 8 days?


pardes restaurant

25 Mar

PARDES Restaurant, located at 497 Altantic Avenue in downtown Brooklyn is one of the hottest Kosher meat restaurants in the New York area today.  It is a casual restaurant with impeccable service and delicious food.  The food pairings are most interesting and that is why I enjoyed it so much.  I’d been there before with some friends and decided to go with my husband for our recent anniversary.  The only downside is that the restaurant is small, having between 30 and 34 seats with not much room between tables.  In fact, the couple next to us, who were members of a party of 6, were asking what we were eating and continued to make conversation with us.  It’s not often that my hubby and I go out for a formal dinner, and I’d hoped it would be a bit more intimate.

What to Order/What to skip:

For our first course, we ordered Deviled Ribs, with shaved fennel Slaw and Chicken n’ Porcini Waffles with apple confit and chestnut cream.  Both were good but the ribs won first place!  While the waffles themselves weren’t awesome (maybe because I prefer them covered in soft chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce!), the little fried chicken nuggets it came with were great paired with the chestnut cream and apple.  It was a nice combination of flavors and presented nicely.

For the Entree, my husband, uncharactaristically ordered (Sara’s Spring) Chicken and loved every bit of it!  His dish came with a  grilled boneless chicken breast, a grilled bone-in chicken thigh, and 2 separated parts of a wing.  It was served with 2 round fritters of quinoa and pureed cooked kholrabi.  I had the Black Angus Steak grilled to perfection to medium doneness, as per my request.  It came with their signature French Fries tossed with fresh parsley and served with truffle mayo (yum) and house made ketchup (wasn’t into).  While we were waiting for the main dish to arrive, we couldn’t help but notice other tables being served an enticing portion of Pardes’ Smoked Paprika Popcorn, and ordered a portion. These we were not so fond of as the flavoring gave it a wet, soggy quality which we did not enjoy.


Dessert was Bourbon Baba for Naftali and Chocolate Mousse for me.  The Baba is a yeast based pastry, soaked in bourbon and totally not our speed.  Yeast cakes are best served fresh and this had a stale quality.  It was served with Popcorn Ice Cream and Smoked Peanut Brittle, both good.  The Mousse was served in a leaning glass, with whiskey/cardamom Creme Anglaise, Blood Orange, which lent the dish a balancing tartness, Rye Cookies, and Cocoa Nib (for crunch).  I thoroghly enjoyed the combined flavors of this dessert.

Pardes’ menu is seasonal and I probably should have been a bit more daring in my menu choices – but while I enjoyed our meal very much, I think my husband prefers a restaurant that is more “on the beaten track” with “regular” fare.  The next time I go to Pardes, it’ll probably be with a group of friends!  I recommend Pardes, and advise you to make a reservation well in advance of your visit.  Also, consider an early reservation for the best service.



06 Mar

Well, it is certainly that time of the year!  Purim is almost upon us, and not only is our town a hustle and bustle of costume shopping and basket coordination, but as of a few weeks ago, the hamantasch cookie appeared on bakery and supermarket shelves with much competition.  The Hamantash commemorates the 3 cornered hat that Haman wore.  It’s only been in recent years that I’ve developed a liking to Hamantaschen, with my favorite brand being Reisman’s, and my preferred filling being raspberry.  For some reason,  you cannot buy a package of only raspberry filled cookies.  The boxes are a combination of apricot and raspberry filled, so I am always evaluating the sealed packages to see which ones have more raspberry than apricot.  Somehow, it always seems to look like they put the raspberry ones on top and inevitably, hide the apricot filled ones underneath!  What I like most about the Reisman’s brand is its soft cookie dough with no crunch at all.  When I can, I  make a special trip to a local store (Feldman’s) which sells the cookies loose from a case and I can get as many raspberry filled Hamantaschen as I’d like.

Last year was the first year I made my own Hamantashen.  They were fun to make and quite good to eat.  I filled some with raspberry jam and some with prune jam (lekvar) and loved them both.  I also seem to remember that I ate most of them myself, which means, that it remains to be seen if I will bake a batch of these yummy treats today!

Photo Credit:, Recipe credit: Rivka Malka Perlman


2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
6 eggs
3 tsp baking powder
6-7 cups flour

Filling choices can include: apricot jam, poppy seed filling, raspberry jam, strawberry jam and prune jam (lekvar).


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Mix ingredients together.  On a floured surface,  roll the dough thin with a rolling pin.  Cut out 2-3 inch circles with a cookie cutter or upside down drinking glass.  Put approximately 1 teaspoon of a filling of your choice in the center of each round.  Lift the sides of the dough and pinch the cookie to form a triangle.  Bake for about 7 minutes until very light brown begins to show (should be pale).


pomegranate ice

08 Feb

Ever since I can remember, it has been a tradition in our family, that my mother sends all of her married children and grandchildren platters of dried fruit and nuts for Tu b’Shevat.  This year, my parents are in Florida, so with the help of my 12 year old niece, 9 year old nephew, and my 10 year old son, I prepared 10 colorful platters to distribute to the family. (Thanks Rikki, Yitzy, and Yitzy!)

As one of the shiv’as haminim, pomegranate seeds were included on our platters.  While pomegranate was once reserved for a yearly Rosh Hashana treat, it has become an all year round staple in all groceries and supermarkets as well as a  jewel-like accessory to sprinkle on salads.  I was recently served this pomegranate ice alongside a triangle slice of the Chocolate Lovers Truffle Brownies from Suzie Fishbein’s Kosher by Design cookbook.  It’s a winning combination – with the tartness of the pomegranate ice perfectly offsetting the richness of the cake.


1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups Pom pomegranate juice

1/4 cup lemon juice


Boil the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Cool

Add the pomegranate and lemon juices.  Freeze overnight.  Defrost 10 minutes.  Blend or process in food processor.

Refreeze.  Check texture before serving.  If necessary, defrost briefly and re-blend.