Ten Commandments Surprise Cookies

standard Friday May 11th, 2018 Leave a response

My favorite inauthentic part of eating at a Chinese restaurant is the fortune cookie at the end of the meal. Many modern Chinese restaurants won’t serve fortune cookies because they are not part of the Chinese tradition. I decided to bake my version of these biscuits for Shavuot. Rather than containing fortunes, each cookie will celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai by revealing one of the Ten Commandments. My new tradition may be as American as the creation of the original fortune cookies.

The fortune cookie as we know it was invented during the 1800s in San Francisco. It was adapted from a recipe for Japanese rice crackers. In Japan this type of snack is called tsujiura senbei. It is flavored with sesame oil and miso, and is not sweet like the American version. The fortune is written on a slip of paper that is rolled up tightly. The paper remains outside the biscuit, securely tucked into the pinch in the middle of the cracker.

According to Deuteronomy 18:10, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, one that useth divination, a soothsayer, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer.” In other words, fortune telling is forbidden in Judaism. That being said, cookies containing secret messages within them are really fun! In celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, I decided to bake my own Japanese-inspired cookies at home. I prepared wafer rolls, which are easier than fortune cookies. Instead of fortunes, I hid one of the Ten Commandments in each of them. You may find the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21.

If you don’t have the time or the patience to bake your own cookies, you will get a similar result if you buy a tin of hollow wafer rolls. These are usually used to garnish an ice cream sundae. Just roll up each commandment and place it inside the cookie. This is a fun party favor to include whether you are a host or a guest.

Ten Commandments Surprise Cookies

  • Ten Commandments written on slips of paper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 eggs whites
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl into a batter.
  3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Drop 1 tbsp. of batter on the cookie sheet, and spread it to form a 3-inch disc.
  5. When all your cookies are formed place the tray in the oven.
  6. Bake for 8 minutes.
  7. Remove the tray from the oven.
  8. Brush the handle of a wooden spoon with a little vegetable oil.
  9. Roll each cookie around the handle.
  10. Slide each cookie tube off the wooden spoon and allow to cool completely.
  11. Roll up each commandment and place inside a cookie.

Published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Lag BaOmer Orange Infused Buns

standard Sunday April 22nd, 2018 Leave a response

In Israel, the arrival of Spring brings with it the smoky smell of Lag BaOmer bonfires. The outdoorsy Jewish holiday falls on May 3 this year, and where there will be fire, there will be creative outdoor cooking. In honor of Israel’s Jaffa oranges, here is a recipe for a truly sabra Lag BaOmer treat. This year you may try buns cooked in orange peels in the embers. If you do not have time to prepare the dough in advance, use refrigerated dough from the supermarket or brownie, cake, or muffin mix. If lighting a bonfire near where you live is completely out of the question, the outdoor grill or fire pit will do.

Orange Infused Buns

Ingredients for yeast dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 ½ tsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. rapid rise yeast
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, almonds, pecans, cranberries, raisins, or a combination.

Preparation for the yeast dough:

  • In a large bowl combine the water, sugar, and yeast.
  • Set aside to rest in a warm place for 15-minutes.
  • Mix in the flour, salt, and oil.
  • Knead the dough for 10-minutes.
  • Add the chocolate chips, nuts, and/or dry fruits.
  • Knead the dough for a few minutes.
  • Oil a large bowl.
  • Transfer the dough, and turn over to coat with oil.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and put in a warm place.
  • Allow the dough to rise for 1-hour.
  • Punch down the dough.
  • Allow to rise again for 45-minutes.

Preparation for the the Jaffa oranges or navel oranges:

  • Slice the oranges in half.
  • juice the oranges.

  • Fill an orange half with yeast (or other) dough.

  • Close with another orange half.
  • Wrap with 3-layers of aluminum foil.

  • Place in the bonfire, and cover with hot coals.

  • Cook the dough for 30-minutes.
  •  Unwrap the orange.

As you peel back the aluminum foil you will find piping hot, smoky steamed buns (or cakes) permeated with the flavor of the orange. Enjoy eating them with a spoon.

Published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Israeli Independence Day or Yom Ha’atzmaut Menu

standard Wednesday April 18th, 2018 Leave a response
Photo: David Weekly

We have been blessed to merit participation in the celebration of 70 years of the modern State of Israel. The dreams of countless Jews have been realized in our times. After the Holocaust, it was the goal of the survivors who participated in building the new State of Israel to create the “New Jew,” one who would be different than the ones in Europe before the war. This “New Jew” was the Sabra, the Israeli. Sabras were strong, proud Jews. They did not look, act, speak, or dress like their parents. They also did not eat the foods of Eastern Europe. They ate Israeli food such as pita, falafel, hummus, and olives. Lets celebrate this wonderful occasion with an Israeli falafel bar.

Your falafel bar may replicate the experience of going to a falafel stand in Israel. You may purchase most of the components of a falafel ready made. Your guests will be free to compose their falafel any way they like. You will need:

  • Pita bread
  • Falafel balls
  • Tahini
  • Hummus
  • Baba ganoush
  • Israeli salad
  • Olives
  • Pickled cucumbers

For your convenience, the only thing on this list that I recommend that you prepare from scratch is the Israeli salad. This salad is very versatile and open to interpretation. If you like you may add diced radishes, fresh mint leaves, or parsley. You may also omit anything you don’t like and strip it down to the basic tomato, cucumber and pepper salad. You may purchase the rest already prepared either refrigerated, canned, or frozen.

Photo: Sharon Gefen

Israeli Salad

  • 1 tomato
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 pepper
  • green onion, to taste
  • cilantro, to taste
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  1. Dice the tomato, cucumber, and pepper.
  2. Cut up the green onion and cilantro.
  3. Juice the lemon and add to the salad.
  4. Add the olive oil.
  5. Season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Toss well.

Published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Sephardic Seder Flavors

standard Saturday March 17th, 2018 Leave a response

Too Good To Passover, by Jennifer Abadi, is an exploration of the diversity of Sephardic and Mizrahi Passover traditions. Abadi spent six years interviewing people from Jewish communities in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Along with their sentimental memoirs, her subjects shared treasured family Passover recipes.

According to the people she interviewed, Passover preparations in their communities began as soon as Purim ended. I was impressed with the descriptions of the thorough cleaning, koshering, and in many cases, repainting of homes in anticipation of the Seder. Special efforts were made to ensure that the food was kosher for Passover. Animals were purchased while still alive to be taken to a shochet, or ritual slaughterer. Spices and nuts were purchased whole, to be processed in the home. Matzah was baked in a communal oven from flour that had been especially milled for the occasion. Almost all of the people interviewed said that they made their own wine. Many families had special dishes just for Passover.

While contemporary life is much easier than what Abadi’s interview subjects described, some traditions persist. For example, it was interesting to discover that some Jewish communities (Indian, Syrian, Lebanese) consume rice during Passover, while some do not. Similarly, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are forbidden during Passover in the Indian tradition, while in other cultures, these foods are featured prominently in Passover recipes.

I was thrilled that the people interviewed by Abadi shared their treasured family recipes with her. In fact, you may enhance your Seder this year by making some of their dishes and adding them to your table. I am planning to prepare the Tunisian Rose Petal Dusted Date “Truffles” Haroset. Frankly, I was expecting the Persian Jews to be the ones to add rose petals to their haroset, so this recipe took me by surprise.

Abadi’s most important contribution is preserving the memory of the communities she describes in her book. As I read the book, I felt like I was listening to the people Abadi interviewed and being transported to their home countries.

Published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Easy Passover Cake Three Ways

standard Monday March 12th, 2018 Leave a response
Photo by Reut C https://www.flickr.com/photos/reutc/

Passover is a time of visiting with family and friends, as well as entertaining.

It is easier than you think to make a delicious home-baked dessert to sweeten these encounters: All you need is a torte to form the base, freshly whipped heavy cream, melted chocolate, nuts, and spring berries.

In my family, these cakes were rolled, with the filling on the inside. Something always goes wrong when I try this, so I just serve them like strawberry shortcakes.

For all of these cakes, preheat the oven to 350°F, and oil a 9-inch round cake pan. Note that peanuts, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds are kitniyot.

Nut Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups toasted and ground walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews, Macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, or coconut.
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 eggs, separated
  1. Place the ground nuts, brown sugar, and salt in a bowl. Mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks and the cane sugar for about 5 minutes.
  3. When the egg mixture is fluffy, fold it into the nut mixture.
  4. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites.
  5. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.
  6. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
  8. Bake for 60 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Sponge Cake

  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  1. Whip the egg yolks, orange zest, and 1 cup of sugar in a bowl.
  2. In a different bowl, whip the egg whites with 1/2 cup of sugar.
  3. Add the matzo meal, potato flour, and orange juice to the yolk mixture.
  4. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk batter.
  5. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into a prepared cake pan.
  7. Bake for 70 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Photo by tisay https://www.flickr.com/photos/tisay/

Chocolate Cake

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups ground almonds (or other nut of your choice)
  • 7/8 cup sugar
  • 10 eggs, separated
  1. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave.
  2. Whip the yolks and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Add the melted chocolate and ground almonds.
  4. Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl.
  5. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Pour the batter into a prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 60 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool.

All of these cakes are delicious unadorned, and pair very well with coffee or tea. However, you can have fun garnishing them. Here are some easy ideas you may use separately or together:

Whipped Cream

  • heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon brandy
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • nuts
  1. Whip the cream with the sugar and brandy.
  2. Spread the whipped cream over the cake.
  3. Sprinkle some nuts over the cream.

Alternatively, you can sprinkle some powdered sugar over your cake, melt some chocolate chips in the microwave and spread the melted chocolate over it, or garnish it with fresh spring berries.

Published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Philadelphia’s Secret Hispanic History

standard Saturday March 3rd, 2018 Leave a response

While Sephardic Jews are the minority within the Jewish community currently in Philadelphia, they were essential to the success of the War of Independence, and the founding of the United States. Descendants of those Sephardic Jews still live here today. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sunset on September 20. Philadelphians of Hispanic heritage will find the language and food of the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah celebration very familiar.

Please continue reading in Al Dia.

Drunken Purim Babka

standard Monday February 19th, 2018 Leave a response
Photo: Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA.

To really celebrate Purim, we should consume so much alcohol that we cannot tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai. Unlike at all the other Jewish holidays, alcohol takes center stage during Purim. Why not extend this pleasure to all the recipients of your mishloach manotpackages? Mishloach manot are the gifts of food that are traditionally given out during Purim. One delicious Purim food from the Polish Jewish community that can be added to a gift package is shikkor babka, or drunken babka.

Portrait of King Stanislaus Leszczyński.

It is believed that drunken babka was invented by mistake. In the 18th century, Poland’s King Leszczynski was in exile in Provence. His chef baked a Gugelhupf (yeast marble cake) for dessert. The cake was overbaked and very dry. When the king bit into it, he was so infuriated that he threw it across the dinner table. The cake knocked over an open bottle of rum. King Leszczynski decided to taste a slice of cake soaked in rum. He loved it!

The rum-soaked babka, also called Ponczowa, became a favorite Polish dessert. This recipe crept into Jewish kitchens, and Polish Jews adopted it for their Purim celebration. With the recipe below, you can now include drunken babkas in your Purim gift baskets this year.

Drunken Purim Babka
Adapted from Barbara Rolek

Ingredients for the Yeast Sponge

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 4 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

Ingredients for the Batter

  • 2 ¾ cups flour
  • 11 tablespoons softened butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the Rum Syrup

  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Preparing the Yeast Sponge

  1. In a large bowl, mix the warm milk, yeast, sugar and flour.
  2. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and place in a warm spot for 15 minutes.

Mixing the Batter

  1. In another bowl, whip the eggs with the sugar and salt.
  2. Mix in the butter, the yeast starter and flour.
  3. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Baking the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 ℉.
  2. Coat a bundt pan with non-stick baking spray.
  3. Pour the batter into the bundt pan.
  4. Cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven.
  7. Wait 15 minutes, and then invert the cake onto a serving platter.

Preparing the Rum Syrup and Adding It to the Cake

  1. Make simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a pot.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, and add the lemon juice and zest.
  3. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Remove from the heat, and add the rum.
  5. Poke holes into the cake using a toothpick.
  6. Pour the rum syrup onto the cake.
  7. Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Published in The Philaelphia Jewish Voice.

Valentine’s Day “Milky” Drunk Chocolate Pudding

standard Wednesday February 7th, 2018 1 response
Photo by pengrin https://www.flickr.com/photos/pengrin/

How can you steal someone’s heart? One effective way is to cook a dish that transports them back to a happy childhood memory. For many people that I grew up with in Israel, the treat that accomplishes this is called “Milky.” “Milky” is a chocolate pudding snack topped with whipped cream. It is manufactured by the Strauss Group near Tel Aviv. While many of us still love this childhood nosh exactly the way it is, it can be fun to prepare our own grownup homemade version of it.

Preparing a dessert like “Milky” is not very difficult. You begin with a base of chocolate pudding made from scratch. Give it an adult touch by adding any combination of whisky, rum, chocolate liqueur, or coffee liqueur to it. Then, you may whip your own heavy cream to garnish the pudding. A final elegant touch of chocolate shavings turns a childhood treat into a refined adult extravagance.

Homemade Chocolate Pudding

  • 5 squares quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup liquor
  1. Mix the cornstarch, sugar, and cocoa in a pot.
  2. Add the milk, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove the pot from the flame when the pudding has thickened.
  4. Stir in the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the pudding into a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator.

To serve:

  1. Mix the chocolate pudding with 1 cup of the liquor of your choice. You may combine several types of liquor.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare the whipped cream.

Whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  1. Combine the heavy cream and sugar together in a bowl.
  2. Whisk until the cream forms stiff peaks.

Add toppings

  1. Spoon some chocolate pudding into a small bowl.
  2. Top with whipped cream.
  3. Garnish with chocolate shavings.

Published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Hanukkah Food Hacks

standard Friday December 1st, 2017 1 response
Photo by Zlatko Unger https://www.flickr.com/photos/zlatko/

What can be more festive than delicious holiday specialties made from scratch? For many of us, that is a voyeuristic pleasure, to be enjoyed in a magazine. Real life does not play out that way. Lack of time or attention span is no reason not to enjoy preparing your own Hanukkah treats. Here are some easy shortcuts that will help you fill your home with the aromas and flavors of homemade delicacies.

Photo: Jacob Kaplan-Moss.


An easy shortcut to fresh homemade latkes is purchasing frozen shredded potatoes, or hash browns, and frozen diced onions.

Potato-Onion Latkes

  • 4 cups frozen shredded potatoes, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup frozen chopped onion, defrosted
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, mix the potatoes, onions, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper.
  2. Heat some oil in a heavy skillet.
  3. Drop 2 tablespoons of batter to form each latke.
  4. Lower the flame to medium, and fry the latkes until they are golden-brown on each side.
  5. Place the latkes in a casserole dish lined with paper towels.
  6. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
  7. Serve with applesauce, sour cream, or sugar.

Photo: Noam Furer.


Sufganiyot are the jelly-filled doughnuts enjoyed all over Israel for Hanukkah. A wonderful shortcut to preparing these yeasty delights is frozen challah dough. Purchase some frozen challah dough. Leave it out in advance in a warm corner to let it thaw and rise.


  • Challah dough
  • Vegetable oil
  • Strawberry jelly
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Heat some vegetable oil over a medium flame in a large pot.
  2. Pinch out a walnut sized piece of dough.
  3. Roll it into a ball.
  4. Drop into the oil to fry.
  5. When the dough is golden-brown on all sides, remove it from the oil with a slotted spoon.
  6. Place the sufganiyah on a plate covered with a paper towel.
  7. Using a pastry bag, jelly injector, squeeze bottle, or spoon, insert some jelly into the doughnut.
  8. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Photo: Ms Abc Mom.

Hanukkah Cookies

Hanukkah cookies are so easy, and so much fun! Purchase some refrigerated sugar cookie dough, icing, sprinkles, colored sugar, chocolate, and anything else you fancy. Express your creativity by cutting out the shapes you desire with cookie cutters or a knife. Bake the cookies, and when they have cooled, have fun decorating and eating them!

Hanukkah Cookies

  • Refrigerated cookie dough
  • 1/2 cup flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the cookie dough in a large bowl.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of flour.
  4. Knead the flour into the dough.
  5. Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface.
  6. Roll out the dough.
  7. Cut out the shapes you desire with cookie cutters or a knife.
  8. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  9. Bake for about 10 minutes, until light brown.
  10. Allow the cookies to cool completely before decorating them.

Published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Armenian Thanksgiving Pumpkin

standard Friday November 17th, 2017 Leave a response
Photo by Raffi

What should you prepare with all those apples and pumpkins? Many people confront this question after the celebratory hayride and apple and pumpkin-picking excursion. I love to try exotic recipes with my pumpkins. This year I am making a fall dish from Armenia called Ghapama. This vegan dish, dramatically presented inside a whole roasted pumpkin, can be the star of your Thanksgiving table.

Ghapama is a harvest dish with its own special rituals. First, a fresh pumpkin is picked. Then the whole family helps to clean the pumpkin, stuff it with rice, fresh apples, dry fruits, and nuts. Then they enjoy each other’s company while the pumpkin bakes. When it is ready, everyone eats it straight out of the oven while it is piping hot.

Adapted from Arusyak Mirzakhanyan

  • 1 7 Lb. pumpkin
  • 1 cup rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cups diced apples
  • 1/4 cup minced dry apricots
  • 1/4 cup minced dry plums
  • 1/4 cup minced dry peaches
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup dry cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the rice in a pot.
  3. Add 3 cups of cold water and salt.
  4. Cook the rice on high heat for 15 minutes, then strain. It should not be fully cooked.
  5. Place the rice back in the pot, and add the coconut oil.
  6. Add the nuts and dried fruits.
  7. Mix in 6 tbsp. of agave nectar and 2 tsp. of cinnamon.
  8. Set the rice mixture aside.
  9. Wash the pumpkin.
  10. Open the pumpkin by cutting off the top.
  11. Reserve the top of the pumpkin to make a lid.
  12. Scoop out the seeds and pulp.
  13. Spread the rest of the agave nectar on the interior walls and floor of the pumpkin.
  14. Pour the rice mixture into the pumpkin.
  15. Cover the pumpkin with its lid.
  16. Place the pumpkin on a baking pan.
  17. Put the pumpkin in the oven.
  18. Cook for 60 minutes.
  19. Lower the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  20. Check if the pumpkin is ready by poking it with a fork.
  21. When the pumpkin is soft and easily pierced, it is ready.
  22. Cut slices of pumpkin, and serve with the rice filling.
  23. Eat immediately!

Published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.