Sunday, April 24, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Matzo Lasagna

When you're Jewish, you don't get to hunt for Easter eggs (though I suppose finding the Afikomen comes close) or hang out with the Easter bunny.  But that's not to say we don't have some fun times around this time of year, like figuring out a creative way to eat matzo come the sixth day of Passover, when you've already exhausted all other matzo + topping combinations.  This year, on the advice of a colleague, I discovered matzo lasagna.

I know, I know.  You're skeptical.  As was I.  And I had to counsel my husband to keep an open mind before he would even touch it.

But you know what?  It's delicious.  Moreover, although it tastes like matzo lasagna right out of the oven, once the ingredients come together overnight, the leftovers really taste like regular lasagna.  It's a Passover miracle!  It's actually a solid enough dish that I'd make it even if it weren't Passover.  

 I improvised the recipe based on a number of matzo lasagna recipes on the web.  Once you have the basic procedure down, you can get creative and put together your own favorite lasagna flavors.

Here's what you need at a minimum:

6 matzo sheets
1 (24 ounce) carton ricotta cheese
1 (8 ounce) package shredded mozzarella, asiago, or parmesan cheese, divided
1 (28 ounce) jar marinara (or your favorite jarred or homemade pasta) sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the matzo by soaking the sheets in hot water for about 30 seconds, or until the matzo is pliable but not mushy.  Don't oversoak, or else they'll break apart.  Then set them on a dish towel and let them rest until they become bendable.

Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with a shallow layer of sauce, then place upon that two matzo sheets (or however many fits neatly in the dish).  Layer upon it half the ricotta, mixed with a sprinkling of the shredded cheese.  Then put on another layer of sauce.  Alternate matzo, filling, and sauce until you get the desired thickness/layers.  Your top layer should be matzo covered with a thick sprinkling of shredded cheese.  Bake the lasagna in the oven for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and delicious.

Improvisations: The above recipe is super basic (and probably not that delicious).  I spiffed it up with my favorite lasagna fillings: ground beef (or meat substitute), four cheeses, fresh herbs, spinach, onions, etc.  For a less Italian-American and more Sephardic take on this dish, try the filling combinations from this NPR article on minas, the Middle Eastern version of matzo lasagna.

Chag sameach!


So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

When contemporary dancers get freaky.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Minneola Olive Oil Cake

I woke up the other day with an inexplicable craving for marmalade.  Alas, we had all types of jams and preserves hibernating in our fridge, but no marmalade.  But we happened to have a dozen minneolas, and . . . well, when life hands you minneolas, make olive oil cake.

I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake, which was introduced to me by my aunt Cheryl.  The result is a tangy, light, but flavorful cake that is fine on its own but particularly scrumptious toasted and drizzled with citrus-inflected honey.  It's like summer in a loaf pan.

Here's what you need:

Butter for greasing pan
3 minneolas (regular oranges or blood oranges will work too)
1 cup (200 grams or 7 ounces) sugar
Scant 1/2 cup (118 ml) buttermilk or plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup (156 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups (219 grams or 7 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Honey minneola compote, for serving (optional, below)
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Grate zest from 2 minneolas and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until zest is evenly distributed in sugar.

Supreme a minneola: Cut off bottom and top so fruit is exposed and can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away peel and pith, following curve of fruit with your knife. Cut segments out of their connective membranes and let them fall into a bowl. Repeat with another minneola. Break up segments with your fingers to about 1/4-inch pieces.

Halve remaining minneola and squeeze juice into a measuring cup; you’ll will have about 1/4 cup. Add buttermilk or yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones.  [Note: I didn't do a thorough enough job of mixing the ingredients and parts of my cake came out tasting very flour-y. Blech. Don't make my mistake; really incorporate the dry ingredients completely into the wet ingredients.]  Fold in pieces of minneola segments. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up. Serve with whipped cream and compote (below), if desired.

Honey Minneola Compote: Supreme 3 more minneolas according to directions above. Drizzle in 1 to 2 teaspoons honey. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir gently.

When ready to serve, cut cake into small slices and toast gently in oven until the edges are caramelized.  Drizzle on the honey citrus compote.  Find a hammock (or imagine a hammock).  Enjoy an early taste of summer.


So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

Les Twins. These guys are uh-maz-ing.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Itsy bitsy feet

Why are baby appendages so darn cute?  I mean, I have small feet, but I have no desire to coo over them.

And when I look at my own stumpy hands, they just seem funny looking.  But there's nothing funny about adorable pudgy baby fingers.

Many thanks to gorgeous Maddie for being such a willing model.  If you grow up and decide not to be a lawyer-musician-educator like your parents, there's money in hand modeling, you know.


So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

This short film, shot for a Chloe editorial, makes me want to put on an ethereal and decidedly non-functional designer gown for my next pointe class.

Thank you to the fabulous Blush!nk for the link.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Salted Caramel Chocolate Matzoh Crunch

Passover is coming up soon, which means matzoh galore.  And when one has had enough of matzoh with margarine, matzoh with peanut butter and jelly, and matzoh brei, the only thing to do is to cover matzoh with caramel and chocolate.  Sprinkle the concoction with a little fleur de sel, and you'll get a confection so heavenly you'll never kvetch about going breadless again.

My recipe is adapted from Marcy Goldman's "Trademark, Most Requested, Absolutely Magnificent Caramel Matzoh Crunch."  Let me assure you that the name is right on target. The result is a chewy, crunchy, sweet, and savory delight.

Here's what you need:

  • 4-6 unsalted matzohs
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate
  • Fleur de sel, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment — on top of the foil.

Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzohs, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces.

In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2 to 4 minutes). Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and pour over the matzoh, covering completely. [Be careful not to boil the mixture for too long, or else the caramel will get burnt and bitter.]

Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°. Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning (if it seems to be browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325°, and replace the pan).

Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chopped chocolate or chips. Let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzoh. Sprinkle the fleur del sel on top of the chocolate. While still warm, break into squares or odd shapes. Chill, still in the pan, in the freezer until set.

[BTW, it's fun to try variations on this recipe: use white chocolate chips or peanut butter cups; add chopped nuts or marshmallows; or mix salt into the caramel for a salted caramel base.]


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lomography for Japan

Attention all film photography lovers: Lomography has issued a line of cameras to benefit victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.  The cameras, which are available here, range between $89 to $119, and a portion of the proceeds go to Red Cross Relief in Japan.

Lomographer via Design Blahg

As you might remember, I have had such a crush on toy cameras, particularly the Diana.  I'm not quite at the stage where I feel comfortable shooting film yet, but when or if I ever get there, this would be my camera of choice:

Lomographer via Design Blahg

Toy cameras produce photos with such soul, such loveliness.  And to me, the photos often evoke a sense of melancholy that can't be replicated digitally.

Image Source

Do you still shoot film?  Have you tried shooting with a toy camera?


So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

I am obsessed with this song by Adele.

And these guys totally rock it out.


Friday, April 8, 2011

The little ballerina

From the Anthropologist . . .  the most beautiful little film by David Eustace starring the quirky and ethereal Tomomi Sato of the Scottish Ballet.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Passover, Google-style

Courtesy of my Aunt Cheryl.


Monday, April 4, 2011

She melts my frosty winter heart.

It's a wet, dreary "spring" Monday here in Boston.  But it makes me warm and happy to be reminded of our recent trip to visit my niece.

Go ahead, weather, do what you gotta do.  I've got all the sunshine I need.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

Are these dancers, machines, or dancing machines?

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