Thursday, November 04, 2021

Order Now— 52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen

I am beyond thrilled that my cookbook, 52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen is now available for pre order from your favorite local and on-line booksellers. It will be in stores this December. 

For more info on the book and a video flip through go to The Collective Book Studio website. Watch for more info about the book here and my soon to be launched new author website. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

An Essential Baking Book and a Honey Cookie Recipe

Stack of honey cookies, some with lemon curd

One of the nice things about being a food writer is that you get to spend time with other food writers and taste and share the recipes they create.

My friend, Beth Lee (who blogs at and lives in the Bay area) has a new cookbook out and it is truly The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook. The book, published by Rockridge Press, offers up 50 traditional recipes, many inspired by Lee’s Ashkenazi grandmother. While the book has lots of delectable recipes for babkas, bagels, challah and other Eastern European and East Coast Jewish specialties (including my favorite black and white cookies), it also offers goodies from other Jewish communities ranging from pita to Yemeni bread, Sephardic fritters, borekas, baklava, and more.

The book also has an extensive introduction on baking basics and ingredients and the recipes are well written and easy to follow. I felt like I could hear Lee guiding me through the steps as I baked.

I tried her recipe for Honey Cookies. They were light, satisfying, and not too sweet, a nice accompaniment to another dessert (try them with ice cream or a lemon or honey mousse) or by themselves. They also are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. They would also be good to serve during Rosh Hashanah, when desserts made with honey are traditional for some.

I made them slightly larger than the recipe calls for and used lemon curd to make sandwich cookies. A berry jam would work as a cookie filling, too. The recipe is dairy. For a non-dairy option, Lee says to replace the melted butter with ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil.

The recipe below is adapted for space, style and to reflect my experience making it.  Thanks to Lee for letting me share this recipe from The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook: 50 Traditional Recipes for Every Occasion.

Beth Lee’s Honey Cookies

Adapted from The Essential Jewish Baking Book (Rockridge Press)

Makes 48 cookies

2 ½ cups flour

¼ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

½ cup honey

¼ cup brown sugar

1 Tbs. fresh lime juice

1 tsp. grated lime zest

½ cup sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. In a second medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, honey, brown sugar, lime juice, and lime zest until well mixed. 

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Stir with a wooden or metal spoon until there is no flour visible.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes.  While the dough is chilling, line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  If baking both sheets at the same time, place oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place sugar in small bowl. Take heaping tablespoons of dough and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in sugar and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Flatten with hands or tines of a fork until they are about ¼-inch thick.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until they have spread and begin to brown on the undersides. (If using 2 sheets at once, rotate halfway through.) Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Notes: If the dough turns sticky while rolling, try oiling your hands or wetting with cold water. If the weather is very warm, you may need to return dough to refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up. I found a thin metal spatula worked best to remove the cookies from the baking sheet. The cookies will be soft at first but crisp up nicely when they cool. Stored airtight at room temperature, they stay crisp and last several days.


This material is adapted from my September 2021 cooking column in Temple Beth Abraham's Omer newsletter.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Call for Recipe Testers for Upcoming Cookbook

Hands reaching across table filled with Jewish food

I’m ready for recipe testers!

If you’d like to be among the first to try a recipe (or a few) from the upcoming 52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners from the Global Jewish Kitchen (website coming soon, cookbook coming next year from The Collective Book Studio), please send an  email to and let me know if you have any food restrictions or limitations, and or if you prefer one kind of cooking over another (say grilling to baking, for example). I’ll send you back a recipe and full instructions.  

The book is mostly main course recipes for meat, chicken, fish, and vegetarian/vegan dinners that feature global flavors from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere with some desserts, starters, and side dishes. Every dish is packed with flavor and most recipes have make-it-in-advance directions.

While the theme is Jewish food (and the recipes follow Jewish dietary laws), these recipes should appeal to anyone who loves to cook local and eat global. So email me if you’d like to get an early preview of  the cookbook and I’ll get back to you ASAP. 

The fine print: Just a reminder, that you'll be receiving a work in progress that will be part of a copyright-protected book, so no electronic or other sharing of the written recipe you receive to test is allowed and  your feedback is to be kept confidential. Recipe testers must follow the recipe as closely as possible and document any changes as well as answer a questionnaire. There is no payment  for recipe testing or associated materials or supplies. Deadline to request to be a recipe tester for this first round of testing is October 20th. After that I'll keep your name on file if we need additional testers for the second round.

P.S. I’m planning a special eBook exclusive for recipe testers, featuring my favorite global ingredients!

Friday, August 14, 2020

Where to Find Me on The Web -- Guest Posts at A Great Good Place for Books, Will Write for Food, More

Tall glass of whipped or dalgona coffee, iced, with spoon
Coffee lovers were whipped into a frenzy by this and I learned a lesson
Lately, in addition to working on my food and recipe columns for the j, Northern California's Jewish Resource, I have had two guest posts.

The first was on the blog of  food writing teacher, mentor and friend Dianne Jacob, where I wrote about the challenges of creating recipes during the early days of the COVID-19 stay in place orders, when grocery shelves were often bare and home pantries in survival mode.  It includes the lessons I learned by being an internet trend follower (including the dalgona coffee pictured above.)

The second was in support of one of my favorite independent bookstores, Oakland's wonderful  A Great Good Place for Books (they ship, too). Owner Kathleen Caldwell and staff are always helpful, supportive and knowledgeable and I wanted to do what I could to help. This post also had a coronavirus angle, suggesting folks get Andrea Nguyen's excellent Vietnamese Food Any Day for a break from SIP comfort food and carbs. In VFAD, Nguyen follows in her mother's footsteps (food steps?) and shows how to resource classic and new Vietnamese recipes from local supermarkets. The post has a few photos of the dishes I made from the book.

Oh, and if you'd like to know more about the best iced coffee I ever made, see my article/post at the j for instructions and variations on dalgona or whipped coffee.  Key tip, you can NOT sub out the instant coffee. And wear an apron, it gets messy.

For more of my regular recipe columns from the j, you can find them on my j author page. They appear in print every other week and are released online shortly before or after publication.  Make the j your home for globally inspired Jewish recipes. Plus, if you ever have a question about the recipe, email me at the address at the bottom of the post, and I'll try to help you out.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Ultimate Comfort Food -- Chocolate Sandwich Cookie (Oreo) Kugel for Your Inner (or Actual) Child

single serving chocolate sandwich cookie kugel on pinkish plate by faith kramer blog appetit

When Stay in Place began a few months ago I did a column for my j., Northern California's Jewish Resource featuring comfort food kugels, Kugels are pretty much comfort food by definition --warm, fragrant and fulling.

Kugels have their roots in Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish tradition. They are casseroles and can be made with cheese or other dairy products, noodles, potatoes, matzoh, meat (but not with the milk) and more. My j column featured cereal milk kugel made with fruit-flavored cereal, a colorful and flavorful treat for one's actual or inner child.

This recipe sparked a renewed interest in my Chocolate Cookie Kugel which I decided to revisit and revise. First change for a SIP household of two, cutting the size. A full-size kugel was just too much, so I halved the recipe. I'm happy to report the recipe halves well (and leftovers store well for up to a week airtight in the fridge). Other minor tweaks include adding the cookie crumb topping. Enjoy.

(Oh, and believe or not, it's really not too sweet but it is rich and a small serving is usually very satisfying. The cookies undergo a kind of magical alteration when cooking and pretty much absorb the filling.)

a slice of chocolate sandwich cookie kugel and a glimpse of the whole kugel by faith kramer blog appetit
Updated Chocolate Sandwich Cookie Kugel 
Serves 12
Halves well – 6-8 servings

The works with any chocolate sandwich cookie with filling -- if using ones with a flavored filling, maybe switch to vanilla extract for the almond. It really doesn't matter if you use generic or brand name Oreo-style cookies.

3 Tbs. unsalted butter melted, divided
30 chocolate sandwich cookies (approx.)
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz. sour cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. almond extract
3 Tbs. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate sandwich cookies, cut or crumbled into bits
Whipped cream or additional sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly brush 1 tsp. of the melted butter inside a 9×13-inch baking pan. Cover bottom with cookies, breaking some in half to fill in any large gaps.

Mash softened cream cheese with sour cream until smooth. Add remaining butter, milk, eggs, almond extract, sugar and salt. Beat until smooth.

Pour mixture over cookies. Scatter chocolate chips evenly over top. Place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pan. Scatter cookie crumbs over top. Bake for additional 15-25 minutes until custard top is firm and puffy and pulling away from sides of pan. Let sit for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with  dollops of whipped or sour cream if desired.

The photos show dollops of sour cream topped with additional, larger bits of chopped cookie as garnish.

See all my j cooking columns (published every other week) for more recipes. My earlier version of this recipe is also available on the blog along with some chocolate blintzes.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Matzah Crunch: Not Just for Passover

Matzah Crunch – adapted from Marcy Goldman, the Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking
Makes 6-8 servings

Everyone loves this very popular dessert. You might also know it under one of its alternative names such as Caramel Matzah Crunch or Toffee and Chocolate Matzah Crunch or the even Matzah Crack, but you might not have realized how easy this is to make. Matzah Crunch originated with Marcy Goldman, who first developed the recipe in 1985. 

This version reflects one made by my late mother-in-law, who made hers with a topping of chopped walnuts or pecans. To make it more like Goldman’s, leave out the nuts.

Be sure to read through the directions thoroughly. You are boiling sugar and making candy, so while the directions are fairly easy they are exact. Always be careful when handling hot sugar.

Other notes: 

Make sure your matzah has no added salt. Some brands are marked salt free, others aren’t labeled, so check the package’s ingredient list.

Some folks have commented that they sometimes have trouble getting the chocolate to melt before spreading. If that happens to you, place the pan(s) in the still warm (but turned off) oven until the chocolate has melted enough to spread. 

Spoon or even use a pastry brush to spread the hot toffee for more even layers. For a thinner toffee, use six matzah sheets. I use close to 2 cups of chocolate chips to get a smooth, thick layer. The original recipe called for 3/4-1 cup. 

Be sure to make room in your freezer before you begin, since you will need to chill the baking sheet(s) filled with crunch to help the chocolate set.

4 sheets unsalted matzah
1 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or coarsely chopped chocolate)
1-2 cups chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans, optional

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Depending on the size of rimmed baking sheets, you’ll need one large or two smaller pans. Line the bottom and sides (leave an overhang) of the pan(s) with foil. Then top with parchment paper cut to totally cover the foil inside the bottom of the pan(s) to make it easier to remove cooked confection. Place matzahs in a single layer on top of parchment, breaking some into pieces as needed to completely cover the bottom of the baking sheet(s).

Combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over the prepared matzahs, covering completely.

Place baking sheet(s) in oven then turn heat down to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. Check every 3 minutes to make sure topping is not burning. (If the toffee layer seems to be in danger, remove pan(s) from oven. Reduce heat to 325 degrees. Replace pan(s) and continue to bake for total of 15 minutes.) 

After 15 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chocolate chips. Let stand for 5 minutes and then spread the melted chocolate evenly over the matzah. While still warm, sprinkle with nuts and cut (a pizza cutter works well) or break into squares. Place in freezer, still on cookie sheets, until chocolate has set. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

In the Bag: Sometimes You Just Need A Coffee To Go -- Steeped Coffee Single-Serve Brews

Steeped Coffee individual brew bag in action 
Just a quick shout out to Steeped Coffee (which provided free samples) for their real coffee in single-serving brew bags (like large tea bags). I used several on a recent camping trip in the United Kingdom and found it convenient and flavorful, much better than instant. My favorites were the darker roasts, but I appreciated the decaf bags since many places we visited did not offer brewed decaf.

One tip, cover the top of your cup with a plate or napkin while the bag is steeping to keep the drink hotter.

A shout out, too, to Spaceships UK, the company we rented our compact camper minivan from (no freebies, there, we paid). Great equipment and great service.

Photo taken at a private campground in the Lake District in England.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Don't Pass Over These Passover Recipes -- A Round Up of Pesach Dishes from Column and Blog and Soup to Nuts

A variety of harosets celebrates the diversity of the Jewish food ways
It's that time of year again -- the time of year where families and friends gather around and ask the four questions -- what can I eat, why can't I eat that, when do we eat (said during the Seder) and how did I eat so much?

Seder Plate
Joking aside, it's a time of special meals and special ingredients and restrictions.  The recipes featured below follow general Ashkenazi traditions of no rice, beans, corn or other kitniyot, which are traditionally eaten by some Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews (and now by some Conservative Jews). If the recipes include processed foods such as tomato sauce they are available certified for Passover and are available on line if not locally.

Many of these recipes are from my j., The Jewish News of Northern California column, others are from Blog Appetit. Some are suitable for Seder, others for every day cooking, some work for both.  Enjoy.

Chicken Soup, Matzah Balls
Appetizers and Starters
Eggplant Garlic, Eggplant Almond and Roasted Vegetable Dips
Vegan Matzah Balls
Horseradish Stuffed Eggs
Baked Gefilte Fish with Beet-Horseradish Topping
Bitter Herbs Salad
Zucchini Fritters
Levana Kirschenbaum's Moroccan Fish Soup
Gluten Free Chicken Almond Dumplings for Soup
Matzah Balls with Fresh Herbs
Matzah Balls 101
Chicken Soup 101

Main Courses

Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole (with ground beef)
Caramelized Balsamic Chicken
Paula Shoyer's Brisket and Roast Salmon
Paula Shoyer's Roast Salmon
Vegan and Gluten Free Moussaka with Two Sauces
 Saucy Eggplant Bake
Zucchini-Matzah Meal Crust Pizza and Oven Frittata with Peppers and Greens
Salmon Steamed in Foil
Grilled Lamb (note: many Ashkenazi do not eat lamb for Seder while many other Jews regard it as an important component of the Seder table.)
Lamb Stew with Tomatoes, Peppers and Dill
Gluten Free Chicken Vegetable Tagine with Quinoa
Cauliflower Matzah Bake, Apple and Vegetable Cobbler

Strawberry Chocolate Pudding
Lemon Ice and Strawberry Chocolate Pudding
Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies
Baked  Matzah Dessert
Tzimmes Cookies and Cake
Jeff Nathan's Poached Apricots with Lemon and Thyme
Almond Brittle
Lemon Pistachio Bars

Custard Matzah Brei
Matzah Granola and Pesach Crepes
Haroset Matzah Fry
Quinoa Berry Muffins
Sweet Potatoes with Pineapple, Moroccan Carrot Salad
Custard Matzah Brei
Passover Potato Gnocchi
Four Haroset Recipes from Around the World
One More Haroset Recipe

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Hostel Take on a Green Tea French Toast Recipe

Green Tea French Toast came about when I was faced with a limited palette of ingredients in a Japanese hostel’s well equipped kitchen and wanted something homey but still foreign for brunch.

The hostel, the Emblem in Kanazawa, Japan, had a large and well equipped kitchen and a nice seating area. I had bread, butter, eggs, and milk. The hostel provided sugar and salt. All well and good, I could make perfectly good but possibly bland pain perdu with those ingredients, but my custardary, rich take called out for some flavoring agent. At home I’d use cinnamon and vanilla or orange zest. They were not in my larder here, so to speak. What I did have was fresh ginger and a green tea bag. The bag was matcha (powdered green tea) mixed with finely ground green tea. Doing this again, I would use all matcha tea, but the combo worked well for flavoring the custard. I only had enough day-old baguette to make two generous servings with a taste for the curious hostel staff. Usually I serve my French toast with a choice of maple syrup, jam and or yogurt, here I just skipped the toppings, but if you have them, they would work well. I think it would also be nice with a ginger syrup and whipped cream.

For my traditional French Toast recipe which uses challah, vanilla and cinammon, please click here.

Green Tea French Toast
Serves 2-3

½ cup milk
1 matcha and green tea bag (matcha mixed with green tea) or 1 tsp. powdered matcha
2 Tbs. sugar
1 large egg
⅛ tsp. salt
½ tsp. grated fresh ginger
About 10 slices day-old baguette, sliced 1” thick (about 90 grams)
1 Tbs. butter for frying, plus more as needed
Extra sugar or powdered sugar for garnish, as desired
Green tea or matcha for garnish, if available and as desired

Simmer milk (do not boil). Remove from heat once simmering. Add tea bag (or mix in matcha). Let steep until cool. Remove tea bag if using, pressing on it with a spoon to make sure all the liquid returns to the pot. (If using all matcha, stir to make sure it is fully dissolved.)

Beat together sugar, egg, salt and ginger. Slowly pour in the milk, beating constantly, until well mixed. Place bread slices in a rimmed dish, pour milk mixture over bread, covering completely. Let stand, turning slices over occasionally, about 5-10 minutes until custard is mostly absorbed by the bread.

Heat butter over medium heat until sizzling. Fry slices until browned on one side then flip and fry other side until browned, working in batches if need be. Sprinkle tops of finished French toast with sugar or powdered sugar if desired. Sprinkle with additional 1 tsp. matcha or tear open a fresh green tea bag and crumble some of the tea to a fine dust and garnish with about a teaspoon of that.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Smoky Tomato Freekah Soup with Red Lentils

I love soup, I love using whole grains and legumes, and I especially love foods that have a smoky taste to them.  This recipe combines several elements to build a (vegetarian) smoky taste -- the freekah itself (more about that later), fire-roasted canned tomatoes and smoked paprika.  (I give alternatives if necessary).

Freekah is an ancient way of processing green wheat. It is roasted while still in its chaff (straw) which is what gives it a smoky taste which can vary very mild to somewhat stronger. It is used throughout the Middle East, the Arab world and North Africa. Find it boxed in some supermarkets or in bags or bulk in Middle Eastern and other speciality stores.

This recipe calls for the whole kernel, not cracked. Cracked freekah is broken into pieces ranging from very fine to large. If you can only find the cracked, use the largest variety you can find in place of the whole but note that timing and other variables may change. 

A special shout out to Jill Levine, whose love of freekah inspired this recipe.

Smoky Tomato Freekah Soup
Serves 4

1/2 cup whole, raw freekah 
1/2 cup red lentils
2 Tbs. olive oil plus more as needed
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked or regular paprika plus additional for garnish if desired
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
About 5-6 cups vegetarian broth or stock, divided (plus additional if needed)
28 oz. can fire-roasted or regular diced tomatoes with liquid
2 Tbs. tomato paste plus more if needed
Sugar and or lemon juice as needed
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, parsley or mint, divided
1/4 cup plain yogurt (use non-dairy to keep vegan)
1/4 cup chopped red onion

Rinse and soak freekah in cold water. Pick out any floating or other debris. Drain. Pick over lentils, rinse in cold water and drain and towel dry.

Heat 2 Tbs. oil over medium heat in large pot. Sauté onions until soft and beginning to color. Add garlic. Sauté until golden. Add cumin, paprika and salt. Sauté 1 minute then add drained and dried freekah, turning until coated in oil (add more oil if needed). Sauté for 2 minutes then add broth. Bring to boil, then simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lentils. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with liquid, 1 cup broth and 2 Tbs. tomato paste. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until lentils and freekah are cooked through but not mushy (about 30 minutes but timing may vary greatly). Add stock as needed if soup is too thick. Add more tomato paste by tsp. as needed if it is too liquid and simmer a few minutes more. Taste and add salt if needed. If the soup is too sweet, add lemon juice by tsp. If it is too tart, add sugar by the 1/4 tsp. Stir in half the cilantro. Top servings with dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of cilantro, onions and paprika.