Thursday, April 29, 2010

Need Some Mint?

If so, look no further than my yard.  I've got tons of the stuff, just waiting to be used up.  If you live anywhere nearby, give me a shout and I'll be happy to share some with you.  Seriously.

While I may be a pretty good cook/baker, alas, my gardening skills leave something to be desired.  I keep threatening to plant a vegetable garden every year but somehow I know it will probably be an exercise in futility.  If I don't manage to kill it, the tree rats (oops, squirrels) will get it so why bother?  I did manage to plant some seeds last week in one of those plastic greenhouse things, but so far nothing has sprouted.  Figures. 

Not a sprout or seedling in sight.  Looks like the damn Sahara desert!

Oh, but mint.  Now that's a whole different story.  You just plant it once and it keeps on going year after year.  Just like the energizer bunny.  Ha, maybe it's really just a weed that tastes good.  No wonder I can grow it successfully!

I'm kind of sentimental about my mint, though.  That's because it came from the house we moved out of three years ago.  You remember - that wonderful, old (repeat "OLD") house where our kids grew up and where we spent some mighty good years.  My then-next-door neighbor gave me a few cuttings from her garden which I planted .  They multiplied by about a billion.  I brought some of it with me to our new house where it continues to flourish.  I consider it my personal heirloom mint.

So be forewarned, unless you come by and take some off my hands, you may be seeing a few more mint recipes here.  Last night I used it to make chimichurri sauce, which is a mixture of fresh herbs, olive oil and vinegar with a few flavors thrown in.  Originally Argentinian, it's now become more or less mainstream, but don't let that deter you.  It's normally used as a marinade for beef, but I decided to use it as a sauce instead.  Even Henry, who is usually suspect about anything he thinks may be spicy, declared it a winner.

This is local, grass-fed beef (London broil)

CHIMICHURRI  (adapted from Bon Apetit)

1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
   (or more or less to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Taste to adjust seasonings. 
Use it as a sauce for grilled meat (I grilled off two London broils,
sliced and topped them with the chimichurri) or use as a marinade
before grilling.

Yield:  about 1 cup

Of course, this didn't cause the slightest dent in my mint crop.  Mojitos, anyone?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Torturing Henry

I wish you were here with me in the kitchen right now.  I just took a pan of strawberry-orange scones out of the oven and it smells like a bakery.  Considering it's nasty and rainy outside (with the possibility of tornadoes tonight, oh great), my kitchen is the perfect place to spend the afternoon.  The aroma of those scones is making me pretty hungry.  Henry, too.

Problem is, we can't eat them!  Sorry, Henry.  After that gluttonous trip to St. Martin, it's mostly fiber and vegetables around here these days.  No wine, either.  Crap.

But you can make (and eat) these.  Besides, it's a great way to use up some of that buttermilk you have on hand now that you've made your very own lovely butter (which will be fantastic on the scones, by the way). 

The basic recipe is one we used at Star Provisions which I have tweaked with the addition of buttermilk and a little extra flour.  It makes a lot of scones (I got 22 out of the recipe) which is wonderful news because you can freeze them unbaked and then just pop one or two in the oven whenever you need them.  That's right, they can go straight from freezer to oven.  Of course in my house, that's downright dangerous.

If you didn't get around to making butter like I told you to, of course you can use store-bought buttermilk.  I'll tell you though, the homemade stuff lends an extra-buttery taste to the dough!


5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound cold butter, diced
2 eggs (I used extra-large)
1 cup buttermilk (preferably homemade)
2 cups diced strawberries
Zest from 2 oranges
1 teaspoon orange extract
Additional flour

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl of electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Combine briefly on low speed.  Add butter and pulse on and off on very low speed until just combined.  When mixture is stable and no longer flying out of the bowl, mix on low speed until just crumbly and butter is the size of peas, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs and blend.  With mixer on low speed, slowly pour in buttermilk and mix until a soft dough forms.  Remove bowl from mixer stand.

Combine diced strawberries, orange zest and orange extract in a small bowl.  Toss with 2 tablespoons of flour.  Using a spatula, gently fold into dough.

Turn dough out on a well-floured surface.  It will be sticky.  If  too sticky to work with, add additional flour and knead briefly until dough comes together.

Roll out into a 3/4-inch thick rectangle.  Flour top of dough and knife.  Cut dough into 3 1/2 by 3 1/2-inch squares then cut each square diagonally into triangles.  Remove to a sheet pan and continue with remaining dough, re-rolling one time.

Place baking sheet in freezer.  When scones are frozen, wrap well and store until needed.  If baking immediately, it is best to chill them first, at least one hour.  Preheat oven to 350-degrees then bake on a sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat for 40 minutes or until golden.  Cool on a rack.

Yield:  22 triangular scones (of course, you can cut them into any shape/size you like)

These are perfectly wonderful as is, but I like to take them over the top by either brushing them with egg wash (beat an egg with some water, milk or half-and-half) and sprinkling generously with sugar (preferably turbinado) before baking or glazing them when they come out of the oven.

ORANGE GLAZE (this makes enough for the entire batch of 22 - make less if you are baking off fewer scones)

3 cups confectioner's sugar
Juice of two large oranges
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well until no lumps remain.  Glaze should be fairly thin and pourable.

Brush over slightly cooled scones.  Yum!

Many recipes will tell you to bake scones at 425-degrees or higher, the idea being to create a beautiful outside crust.  I agree with the concept but that has never worked for me in a home kitchen because the outside gets done, but the inside does not.  I find that a longer baking at 350 does the trick in my oven.  You may need to experiment with yours.

I used strawberries because that's what I happened to have on hand.  But you can take the basic recipe and add anything you can think of - like maybe blueberries and lemon zest, dried cranberries and crystallized ginger, dried apricots and toasted almonds - well, you get the idea.  Heck, why not chocolate chips and orange zest?  A little chocolate for breakfast never hurt anyone.  Have at it!

Oh, and I suffer for my art.  I broke the diet and tasted one of the scones before I posted this.  Since I altered the basic recipe, I figured it was only reasonable to taste the result before I posted it.  You can feel guilty now!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Real Reason We Went to St. Martin

I don't know who coined the phrase "everything's better with butter" (Land "O Lakes, maybe?) but I agree!  Especially when the butter in question is Normandy butter. 

We ate a lot of it last week in St. Martin.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Breakfast consisted of that blood orange juice I told you about, along with strong coffee and a warm baguette slathered with butter.  Disproportionately, I might add, meaning more butter than baguette.  It was worth every pound we gained, too (notice I did not say "ounce").

The grocery stores and restaurants on the French side of St. Martin rely heavily on the daily Air France flight which arrives from Paris laden with fois gras, butter and wine.  No wonder Grand Case is the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean!  No wonder this is our favorite vacation spot!

Speaking of airplanes, one of the favorite pastimes on the island is heading to the Sunset Beach Bar to watch them land every day.  That's because huge planes (yes, even 747's) come in low, right over the beach, stirring up vortexes of sand and blowing unsuspecting tourists into the water.  Same thing happens when they take off.  Watching this has become something of a national sport, particularly if you're hanging out with a drink at the bar next to the runway!

Here's what I mean:

As usual, I've gotten WAY off track here.  Where was I going with this?  Oh yeah .. butter!  Make it yourself!  It's easy and oh, so good.  Heck, if you've ever attempted to make whipped cream and walked away from the mixer, then you've made it before.  Buttermilk, too.


(This recipe and method comes from Daniel Patterson, chef/owner of Coi in San Francisco.  It was published in the New York Times Magazine on 7-1-07).

6 cups organic heavy cream (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
Sea salt to taste (optional)

Pour the cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk.  Tightly cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and start mixer on medium-high speed.  The cream will go through the whipped state, thicken further then change color from off-white to pale yellow; this will take at least 5-8 minutes.  When it starts to look pebbly, it's almost done.  After another minute the butter will separate, causing the liquid to splash against the plastic wrap.  At the point, stop the mixer.

Set a strainer over a bowl.  Pour the contents of the mixer into the strainer and let the buttermilk drain through.  Strain the buttermilk again, this time through a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl and set aside.

Keeping the butter in the strainer set over the first bowl, knead it to consolidate the remaining liquid and fat and expel the rest of the buttermilk.  Knead until the texture is dense and creamy, about 5 minutes.  Strain the excess liquid into the buttermilk.  Refrigerate the buttermilk.

If desired, mix salt into the butter.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. 

Yield:  this makes approximately 2 cups of butter and 2 cups of buttermilk

Two things:

Be very careful when placing the plastic wrap over the bowl of the electric mixer.  Make sure it's secure enough that it won't get wound up on the device that turns the whisk - trust me on this.  It happened to me once when I was making sponge cake for tiramisu at Star Provisions and it took me over an hour to remove the tightly wound plastic from the stem of the mixer.  Not fun!

And don't throw away that buttermilk!  It's sweet and delicious.  Stay tuned for the next post.....

Friday, April 16, 2010

Live From St. Martin

Here's what I found in the Grand Case grocery store today:

Local hot sauce

Locally roasted coffee

Blood orange juice

French butter with fleur de sel

Goat yogurt from France - in glass jars, no less

Need I say more about why I like this place so much?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Time to 'Fess Up

Okay, so there's a reason for the last lame blog (although those truffle cookies are worth baking).  The truth is I am in St. Martin.  Right now.  As I write this. 

We've been visiting this island for 25 years.  We adore it here.  It's half Dutch and half French.  We stay on the French side, of course.  This is the place where we can breathe.  I needed to get Henry out of that "stress pool" he's been living in recently, so I made this trip happen on a moment's notice. 

It's not the best trip we've ever had here.  It rained for the first couple of days, thwarting our plans to hang out on the "nekkid" beach or taking a boat trip.  And right now there is no water pressure in our hotel, so Henry can't take a shower (after a three-hour kayak trip around Simpson Bay).  Apparently a water main broke in the village of Grand Case.  I, of course, took a shower immediately upon getting back here, when we had full pressure.  Not my fault if he decided to take a nap instead!  (Can someone please explain to me why someone can fall asleep with all that salt and sweat plastered onto him?  Guess it's a guy thing).

But can we complain?  Hell no!  We get to sit on our balcony each morning with our coffee and baguette (and incredible French yogurt and butter) and again in the evening to watch the sunset.  We get to eat fabulous food (Grand Case boasts the best "Restaurant Row" in the Caribbean) and we get to WALK there from our hotel.  No DUI's for us!

And we get to "get out of ourselves" and just live in the moment.  That doesn't happen in our frenzied world in Atlanta.  We'll take it.  Breathing is good.

This was the rhubarb "tiramisu" we had for dessert the other night at L'Estaminet.
Trust me, I am not even close to being a skinny cook after this little trip.

Had Enough of Passover?

As my mother-in-law would say, "enough already!"  I couldn't agree more.  It's time to get back to the business of cooking and blogging about what I like to eat.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies.
What I like to eat!

Speaking of my mother-in-law, she is one awesome lady.  If you don't want to know what she thinks about something, don't be in the same room with her.  The first time we met, she was wearing a Star Trek t-shirt bearing the words "Beam me up, Scotty, there's no intelligent life on earth."  Enough said.

She's a really good cook.  Remind me, and I will make her ruggelach one of these days and post the recipe. 

But for now you will have to make do with my recipe for chocolate truffle cookies.  Oh, my deepest apologies!

These are rich and delicious.  I make them for one of my Vietnam vets at the VA hospital.  He swears he has gained  20 pounds from eating them.  I hope so.  He has cancer and is not in good health.  I hope these cookies fill both his stomach and his spirit.  I hope you will make and enjoy them also!

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tablespoons cocoa (preferably Droste)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Melt unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of the chocolate chips in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until chocolate is just melted.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

In electric mixer, beat sugar, eggs and vanilla until pale and frothy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in melted chocolate mixture and combine.  Add flour mixture on low speed just to combine.  Stir in remaining chocolate chips.

Chill mixture until firm.  Scoop into balls (I use an ice cream scoop) and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Place balls on a greased baking sheet about 1-inch apart.  Bake until puffed and set, about 10 minutes or until soft in center.  Do not overbake.  Transfer to a rack and cool.

Yield:  about 6 dozen

YUM!  These are the perfect "anti-Passover antidote.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Teaching Mom to Cook

Henry and I have long believed that, at some point in life, your parents become your children.  That's fine and we can deal with it when it happens but here's the scary thing:  we're the parents! 

Sometimes I see it when we're around the kids and we do or say something they think is idiotic (which is frequent) and they just look at each other and roll their eyes.  You know that look.  It's something like "did they really just do that?  Clearly they are starting to lose it."  They're probably thinking about what nursing home they're going to put us in and how in the hell they're ever going to get the basement cleaned out.  Whatever.

I will admit though, when Andy was home recently, I learned a few cooking tricks from him.  Lord, I hope he never reads this blog!  But as I mentioned before, he's got that food gene and he knows how to balance tastes.

Since he was keeping kosher for Passover while here (which meant no restaurants, bummer), he stocked my kitchen so he could prepare meals for himself.  I cringed when he brought home dehydrated minced onion.  He also brought something called "zahatar."  It's an Israeli spice mix, primarily with sesame seed and coriander.

One day he made himself a salad for lunch.  I wasn't paying much attention, busy doing whatever (probably making gefilte fish) so I didn't notice what he put in it.  Then he offered me a taste.

Holy crap, it was amazing.  It was crunchy, salty, savory, lemony, oniony and flat-out delicious.  What on earth did he put in it?

Turns out it was similar to a salad he had in Israel (he loves the place).  He recreated it.  I can't give you an exact recipe, but I can tell you what he put in it.  Make it according to your taste, but trust me (you can, I'm not skinny) MAKE IT!


Salad greens (he used heirloom lettuce leaves, slightly sturdier than mesclun mix)
Dehydrated minced onion, to taste
Pistachio nuts, to taste
Crumbled goat feta, to taste
Zahatar seasoning, to taste
Fresh lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place salad greens in a bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and toss well to blend.  That's it.  Make it for 1 person or make it for 20. 

So much for my food integrity.  Those dehydrated onions turned out to be crucial to the salad.  Who knew?

Oh, and remember that macaroon recipe I posted recently?  He tweaked that one also.  He made it into a macaroon pie (again kosher for Passover) and he added orange and cardamom.  It didn't look pretty, but it sure tasted good! 


10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
20 oz. almonds (not roasted)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 9 extra-large eggs)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon orange zest
Candied orange zest for garnish (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Lightly grease two 9-inch glass pie plates or baking dishes.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over very low heat until smooth.  Set aside to cool.  In a food processor, grind almonds and sugar together (in batches) until very fine and almost powdery.  Place in bowl of electric mixer and add remaining ingredients.  Beat on low speed until just blended; do do overbeat.  Alternatively, you could do this by hand with a whisk or large wooden spoon).

Pour mixture into prepared pans and bake for 15-20 minutes.  It will still seem soft in the midde, but it will firm up as it cools.

Let cool to room temperature before serving.  Top with candied orange peel and whipped cream, if desired.

Serves 12-14

Well, if I do end up becoming their children, at least they know how to cook!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Two Shikses and a Seder

Shikse.  As defined by Marsha Richman and Katie O'Donnell in their hilarious book "The Shikse's Guide to Jewish Men,"  it means "a non-Jewish female, but why hold it against her?"

I became acquainted with this book just before I married Henry, courtesy of his (our) beloved Uncle Ander.  I think he wanted to warn me.  But oh, the tidbits in this book!  Here's a sampling:

The Jewish man's first glimpse of a shikse's refrigerator might make him think she's on welfare.
Uh-huh.  When I first met Henry the only things in my refrigerator were cottage cheese
and a bottle of cheap rot-gut Gallo wine.
I have mended my ways since then.

To the Jewish man, throwing away bread is a sin.
Yep.  It kills him.  I, however, think nothing about cleaning out the fridge.  Of course, he's lucky if there's bread around here in the first place.

On the same day he buys you an expensive watch, he goes to the 25-cent sale at the drugstore and buys a year's worth of stuff.
Well, actually that would be Sam's club.  Such a guy thing!

A few facts about a Shikse:
She was raised on Wonder Bread.
She never had her nose fixed.
She thinks Louis Vuitton is an exotic wine.
Her chicken soup was Campbell's tomato.
She eats corned beef on white bread.  With mayo.
She's the only one who will listen at the Seder.

Well, items 1, 2, 4 and 6 apply to me.  And if it counts, my mom still eats corned beef with mayo.

After 25 years of marriage to a Jewish man:
His relatives now think you were Jewish all along (yup).
You serve strawberry jam and use only Hellman's mayonnaise (unless I make it).
You run the homeless shelter at the synagogue (yeah, I did that).
You run a dynamite seder (yeah, I do that, too).

Which brings me to Passover.  We've spent the last ten years celebrating it with our dear friends Ross and Sue.  A multitude of others are involved, including my (non-Jewish) mom, Sue's parents and a rotating roster of friends and family.  Every year I say I'm never making gefilte fish again and the next year I do it anyway.  I think Ross has similar thoughts, since she has to host both seders (yeah, we do first night and second night) at her house.  It's exhausting.  It's exhilarating.

It's also ironic because Ross and I do all of the cooking - and we're the shikses.  Well, at least I used to be.

Even Mom likes the gefilte fish!

That said, we put on a damn good seder.  Of course, it's helped by the fact that Sue is a wine distributor and there is a plethora of amazing wine (*KE).  Haha, maybe that's why my gefilte fish tastes so good!
A seder just wouldn't be the same without kids!

Ross is a fabulous cook.  She makes a cauliflower kugel that ROCKS!  Replace the matzoh meal with bread crumbs and I would be happy to eat this any time of the year. 

CAULIFLOWER KUGEL  (from Bon Apetit)

8 cups cauliflower florets (from 2 heads of cauliflower)
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups coarsely chopped leeks (about 3 large)
6 tablespoons matzoh meal
3 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup almonds, toasted and chopped

Cook cauliflower in a large pot of boiling, salted water until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain, transfer to a large bowl amd mash coarsely with a potato masher.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Add leeks and saute until tender.  Add leek mixture to cauliflower.  Mix in matzoh meal. 

In a small bowl beat eggs, 1 tablespoon parsley and 1 tablespoon dill.  Season assertively with salt and pepper.  Stir into cauliflower.

Brush an 11 x 7 baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Spread cauliflower mixture evenly in prepared dish.  Mix almonds, remaing parsley and dill and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium bowl to blend.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over kugel.  (Can be made up to 8 hours in advance; cover and chill).

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Bake kugel uncovered until just set in center and beginning to brown on top, about 35 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 - 10

*KE - means "kosher enough."  Trust me, none of us are crazy enough to turn down amazing non-kosher wines (like Turley) even if it IS Passover!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

More Passover - sorry!

Here's the other thing (apart from the dirty little secret about matzoh) people won't tell you about Passover:  it's the stinkiest holiday EVER.  First you have the overpowering smell of fish stock in your house.  Then chicken stock.  Then, that horseradish.  And finally the "egg" smell which lingers in your kitchen sink and on your countertops, especially if you miss a spot when you're trying to clean everything up.  Eggs, you ask?  What's up with that?

That would be because eggs are the only things you can use for leavening.  That would be because I was trying yet again to best Andy at those nasty Passover desserts.  Oh, and I needed them for the matzoh balls too.

But for now, that meant a sponge cake.  With potato starch, eggs and no other leavening.  Sigh.

Here's the neat thing, though.  I unearthed Henry's mom's recipe for sponge cake from a 1959 version of her Temple Sisterhood cookbook.  Cool!  I recalled that she filled it with raspberry jam, rolled it up and served it with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

And then a faint memory struck me:  my non-Jewish mom (you know, the one who shows up in online videos) used to make a jelly roll also.  I remembered that coconut was involved.

I called her to ask about it.  Sure enough, my memory was correct (that never happens).  Her mother (Ethel Barrow Valsek who was a great southern cook - guess where you got those genes from Andy?) made a similar jellyroll but she glazed the top with raspberry jam then sprinkled it with fresh coconut.  

So the following result is a collaboration between a mom who is Jewish and a mom who is not.  A good combination, I think.  If only the Israelis and Palestinians could find such common ground......

JELLY ROLL (for Passover)

8 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (superfine, if possible), divided
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest and juice from 1 large lemon
1 cup potato starch
Confectioner's sugar
12 oz. seedless raspberry preserves
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Line a baking sheet (1/2 sheet pan) with parchment and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Place egg yolks in electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add 1 cup of the sugar and salt and beat for 10 minutes, or until thick and creamy.  Add vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest and blend well.  Remove to a large mixing bowl.

Wash mixing bowl thoroughly then fit mixer with a whisk attachment.   Place egg whites in bowl and beat until foamy.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold beaten whites into the yolk/sugar mixture, using a spatula and a folding motion.  Fold in potato starch.  Do not overmix.  Turn into prepared pan.  Smooth evenly with an offset spatula or knife and run a finger around edges of pan.

Bake for 15 minutes in preheated oven.  Remove from oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes.

While cake is cooling, place a kitchen towel (preferably linen) on the counter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Turn cake out onto towel.  Starting from the long side, roll cake into the towel.  Let cool completely while rolled up.

When cake is cool, carefully unroll and spread 3/4's of the raspberry jam over top.  Re-roll and transfer to serving platter.  Heat the remaining jam and brush it over the top of the cake.  Sprinkle coconut over top.  Slice, serve and enjoy.  Even if it is a Passover dessert.

Serves 8 - 10

Note:  this is a lovely and light confection and I would happily consume it apart from Passover.  However, in that case, I would also add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the potato starch. 

Coming soon:  Lessons from Andy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Passover Desserts? Not So Much.

No flour.  No wheat.  No leavening, like baking soda or baking powder.  Sure, you can use matzoh meal (yuck) but I think that pretty much guarantees a leaden, dry result.  You see lots of recipes for honey cake around this holiday, but I personally despise the stuff.  What to do?

Well, chocolate is good.  If you are really observant you will use Kosher for Passover chocolate or you can use what you normally would and dub it "KE" (Kosher Enough) which is what my more-observant-than-me son does.  I'm down with that.

Okay, so he no longer has the beard.  We have the same smile, though!

The aforementioned son (his name is Andy, he lives in NYC) decided to spend the week with us.  This is the kid who inherited my "food gene."  He gets it.  He's a great cook.  He's got a really good palate.  In many ways, he surpasses me.  I've learned a few things from him this week (more about that later).  But I'm still the better baker.  The challenge for Passover desserts was on!

I hit that cookbook library of mine for inspiration.  Found lots of recipes, but most called for margarine instead of butter or matzoh cake flour.  Nope.  I have my standards, even in the wake of Passover.

Then I remembered the chocolate macaroons I used to make at Watershed...

The recipe comes from Scott Peacock and it is published in his book with Edna Lewis, "The Gift of Southern Cooking."  These are beautiful cookies, crunchy with a chocolate and sugar crust on the outside and chocolate-ly soft on the inside.  They are perfectly delicious.  And perfectly legal for Passover.

CHOCOLATE MACAROONS (from Scott Peacock)

1 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup blanched almond pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup egg whites (about 3 egg whites)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup crushed sugar cubes

Put the chocolates in a small bowl and melt over hot but not boiling water.  Stir until smooth and set aside.

Grind almonds and sugar in food processor (you may have to do this in batches).  Process until almonds are finely ground and mixture is almost powdery.  Remove to a mixing bowl and stir in remaining ingredients.  Chill for at least 1 hour then form into rough 1-inch balls.  Chill again.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Roll balls into crushed sugar and place on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment, allowing 1-inch between cookies.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set and just slightly cracked on top.  DO NOT OVERBAKE!  Allow cookies to cool slightly before transferring them from the baking sheet to a cooling rack.

When cookies are completely cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes about 3 dozen

A mainstream recipe for Passover!  Gotta love it!  I do.