A Sukkah of One’s Own

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I’m teaching Hebrew School this year at the Reform Temple in town, where we go to Tot Shabbat every month. Last week we had our Open House where I met seven families whose children, ages Pre-K through second grade, will be in my class this year. I somehow convinced the rabbi we could definitely handle making a really easy plum cake recipe – with each family. We ended up making 10!

One of the bonuses to teaching Hebrew School, I mean, on top of making my parents unbelievably proud, is to fulfill my dream of having a sukkah.  (Daycare costs are KILLING us, so I used this extra income to purchase a sukkah kit we found online.) Well, on Sunday we hosted a sukkah building and decorating party for our friends and neighbors. It kind of reminded me of the Christmas tree decorating party I held back in Boston, mostly for my Jewish friends who’d always wanted to decorate a tree.

 

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Rich filled a cooler with cider, beer and seltzer, and I set up a craft project: build your own sukkah out of cream cheese, graham crackers and pretzel rods. I covered a table in arts and crafts projects: sequins, pre-cut paper for a colorful chain, popsicle sticks, beads, fishing line, pipe cleaners, paint, brushes, stickers. Just a ton of materials, much of which ended up in the grass courtesy of Beatrix.

 

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I filled a second table with tons of baked goods: blondies, whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, apricot bars with an oat and whole wheat crust, one of the plum cakes from last week (defrosted that morning). I also made chive and cheddar scones because Sylvie thought I needed something savory in the mix. I adapted a sweet scone recipe, using 1 Tablespoon of sugar instead of 3, and sprinkled shredded cheese and chives, cut with kitchen shears, when it called for currants to be added.

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So, yes, that’s a lot. In fact, one of the reasons I didn’t post last week was I was too busy baking! But the recipe I’m most excited to share with you are the salted fudge brownies. I realized as I made them last week I don’t have a brownie recipe in my collection. But I think these are going to be my go-to brownies because they’re wicked easy to make, and quite tasty.

They’re from Desserts, from the editors and writers of Food & Wine which, as you all know, is my favorite of the food magazines. (Moment of silence for Lucky Peach, please.) The first thing I cooked from the book is a recipe that both Rich and I singled out: a chocolate chip cookie for one. It was terrific, took five minutes to put together, and cooked up nicely in my toaster oven. I’ve bookmarked the salted caramel pie, but I need to find the time to cook the sweetened condensed milk. And I’m going to need a few hours to put together the pumpkin pie bars.

One feature about the cookbook I’m really appreciating is that it tells you an estimate of how long a recipe is going to take to put together, bake and also cooling down time. Very helpful as I plan projects with the girls.

These brownies, however, are great because they were so easy to put together. It only took a few minutes, and it’s all done in one pot, so there’s very little to clean up. You start by melting baker’s chocolate and two sticks of butter in a pot. Once everything has melted together, you add the rest of your standard brownie ingredients, stir it up, then put it in a brownie pan that’s been covered in foil and then buttered. Couldn’t be easier. It is worth mentioning that I only had 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate and used chocolate chips for the other ounce, so I cut down the sugar from 2 cups to one. It didn’t seem to make a difference, and I’m sure they’re even better if you follow the recipe.

Salted Fudge Brownies from Desserts by Food and Wine

Ingredients

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. Maldon sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square metal cake pan with foil, draping the foil over the edges. Lightly butter the foil.

In a large saucepan, melt the 1 ½ sticks of butter with the unsweetened chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Whisking them in 1 at a time until thoroughly incorporated, add the cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the batter. Using a butter knife, swirl the salt into the batter.

Bake the brownies in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes, until the edges are set but the center is still a bit soft and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out coated with a little of the batter. Let the brownies cool at room temperature in the pan for 1 hour, then refrigerate just until firm, about 1 hour. Lift the brownies from the pan and peel off the foil. Cut the brownies into 16 squares and serve at room temperature.

The brownies can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month.

 

 

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Chocolate (Granola) for Breakfast

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When people ask if we’re settled into our new house, I can finally say yes. Well, not including things upstairs. Or the boxes all over the basement. But we called the downstairs settled, with pictures hung on the wall and welcome mats in place, at 11PM the night before Lilli’s fourth birthday party, which was scheduled to start at 11:30AM on the following day. Lilli asked for a dinosaur-themed party, so I found dinosaur paper tablecloths, napkins, and plates, and dinosaur sun catchers as an arts-and-craft project for the kids to work on in the playroom. Obviously, the kids didn’t touch the sun catchers and were totally fine with playing dress-up, making play-dough messes, and sticking stickers on any and all surfaces.

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The arting corner

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The dress up corner

I called a bakery to inquire about having a dinosaur cake made, but nearly passed out when they told me it would cost at least $100 to make. Undeterred, and not wanting to let down my little girl, I found a dinosaur baking pan online for $10 and hoped for the best. It was not quite Cake Wrecks bad, but I can say without hesitation it was made with a ton of love by me and Rich the night before. It was a vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting, just as she requested, although it probably wasn’t exactly the vision she had in mind. It tasted much better than it ended up looking.

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Last year, for her third birthday party, we had a build-your-own cupcake bar. The year before we had a build your own sundae bar. This year, I decided to keep it simple, so we got some party-sized pizzas, which are apparently a Western Mass thing.  But we kept the DIY theme going with a build-your-own salad bar, and a yogurt bar for dessert.

You can really go any direction you want for a salad bar, but mine had two types of lettuce, peppers, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, chick peas, kidney beans, steamed green beans, steamed broccoli, shredded carrots, croutons (store-bought), artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, shredded red cabbage, feta, blue cheese, cheddar, radish, avocado, olives, beets (again, buy the packaged ones), sunflower seeds and raisins. If I had had the time I would have served pickled onions and roasted some Brussels sprouts. I served two store-bought dressings and this tamari and tahini dressing I hadn’t made in years, which was a hit.

The yogurt bar became a part of dessert, although if I had been a guest I would have totally broken into it regardless of what part of the meal we were up to. I served plain organic whole milk yogurt and vanilla organic whole milk yogurt, and raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cut up strawberries, honey, coconut, and (drumroll) this chocolate granola.

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Let’s dispel with the notion that granola is healthy. But this granola is particularly not healthy. There’s practically two cups of chocolate chips in every batch. This granola was made as a last-ditch effort to find something for Lilli’s lunch that she would eat and that would not violate the no-nuts rule at her school. I had a little bit of shame about the amount of chocolate and sugar, and debated “pretending” it was carob as far her teachers were concerned. But this is a new favorite in our house, and I’ve found myself making it every week. It’s taken up residence in a massive glass mason jar.

There aren’t a ton of ingredients to it: Some whole oats (healthy), maple syrup from up the road (not terrible), brown sugar (pretty terrible), coconut (which Lilli doesn’t know about), a little oil, and chocolate chips. Nuts had to go, and Lilli turned up her nose at the idea of dried fruit. The way this recipe came about was an accident. I added the chocolate chips too early and the heat of the granola right from the oven caused the chocolate to melt and coat everything, making a dirty good treat. It’s kind of the opposite of when Ruth Graves Wakefield added chocolate chips to her cookie dough, hoping to make chocolate cookies. Instead, she invented chocolate chip cookies.

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Getting her nails did for the party. (Six bucks for sparkly gold nails that didn’t take me hours to do a so-so job on.)

This recipe comes together very quickly, but you do have to give the oats a little stir every 15 minutes while they bake in the oven. But if I can do it on a weeknight, you definitely can, too. Here’s a little secret from my house: I never can find my quarter cup, so I always use four tablespoons. So when this recipe calls for ¼ cup of something, plus two tablespoons, I just measure out six tablespoons; it’s less clean up time in the end. Keep the large bowl you mixed the granola in to mix the baked granola and chocolate chips together.  I reach for a sturdy spatula to stir the oats in the oven, and then use it to stir in the chips at the end. You can also reuse the parchment-lined baking sheet as a cooling surface after you’re stirred the chocolate and granola to melty goodness.

Lilli eats this at least once a day, with plain whole milk yogurt. I fully acknowledge the amount of chocolate in this bars it from being health at all. But this is a dirty good, and easy recipe. Perfect for a snow day like today!

Chocolate Granola

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats

¼ cups plus two tablespoons dark brown sugar

½ cup sweetened shredded coconut

¼ cup vegetable oil

¼ cups plus two tablespoons maple syrup

Pinch of salt

1 3/4 cups chocolate chips (or chopped up chocolate)

Directions

Preheat oven to 250F

In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil and salt.

Combine both mixtures and pour onto one sheet pan, covered with parchment paper or a silpat mat.

Cook for up to one hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve evenly colored golden oats.

Remove from oven and transfer back to the large bowl. Immediately pour in the chocolate chips and stir. You can either leave it in the bowl, or transfer it back to the pan for it to cool off, then break it into pieces before pouring it into a jar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making New Friends

Choosing what dish to bring to a potluck is tricky, especially when it’s a new community. So last week, when I narrowed down my choices to three for the Tot Shabbat vegetarian potluck (no nuts, please), I held a lunchtime poll topic on Facebook for my community’s input. (Rich is not the only pollster in this house.)

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The choices were thus: Vegan chocolate pudding, mushroom and farro salad, and brie and a nice baguette from one of the great bread bakeries in town. The clear winner was the chocolate pudding. You don’t win friends with salad.

This recipe is a good reminder that just because something is vegan does not automatically make it healthy. Case in point: my Cousin Mark eating a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips dipped in horseradish hummus for lunch. Sure, this pudding is made with silken tofu, so it has protein going for it. But it also calls for a ton of sugar.

A recent Facebook “memory” popped up in which I shared something I’d overheard Rich say to Lilli: “Finish up your dinner, because Mommy is cutting up some fruit for dessert. But that’s not real dessert. Real dessert is cake and cookies. Fruit is what Jewish people call dessert when they have a meat meal.”

But now, you can have this chocolate pudding, and it’s way simpler than cutting up a pineapple.

Ingredients

1 pound silken tofu

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pinch salt

Directions

In a blender, combine tofu, cocoa, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Process until completely smooth, scraping down sides with flexible spatula as needed.

Pour into a small bowl and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours before serving.

 

 

 

Semi-homemade

Has anyone else noticed that a head of cauliflower now costs $6? I’m not sure when it happened, and the truth is, that’s what it should cost. It’s winter. Wherever it was grown and picked – most likely by someone being paid a disturbingly low wage – it had to be transported here. Cheap gas or not, fresh produce is getting more expensive.

I mention this because it gets to the whole premise of my blog, which is that eating a vegetable-based diet is more affordable. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what that exactly means, especially considering that I don’t get to come by this space very often these days. For the past few weeks, I’ve been cooking with what I’ve found to be the most affordable foods I can find at the grocery store: frozen vegetables and canned beans.

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I’ve used frozen cauliflower, frozen broccoli, frozen peppers, frozen leeks and frozen spinach. I’ve found all these things at Stop & Shop, Trader Joe’s, and even Target. There are still some things that are more affordable fresh. A two-pound rutabaga is more affordable than a one-pound bag of frozen rutabaga. Ditto for butternut squash and sweet potatoes. Frozen zucchini makes for a kind of soggy dish, but so does fresh zucchini.

A few weeks ago we had a wonderful green curry made with frozen spinach and frozen fish from Costco. Sitting on rice noodles I can buy for a couple of dollars at the Asian super market, the whole meal cost less than $6 to produce.

Of course, starting with dried beans is an even more affordable way to go, but my pressure cooker is broken, and I have no idea where to get it repaired. And honestly, I can buy a can of chickpeas at Stop & Shop for 79 cents. (I think it’s 89 cents at Trader Joe’s, but I’ve had a heck of a time opening their cans. Has that happened to anyone else? Impossible to open cans from Trader Joe’s?)

A lot of this has been going into soups: butternut squash with miso and coconut milk; sweet potato with a can of black beans and a bag of frozen corn. Tonight I made a green soup with frozen broccoli and frozen spinach. For Rich’s I added a dollop of plain whole yogurt and a swirl of jarred pesto I had in the fridge. One of the main reasons I’ve been making all the soups is for Bea who loves eating but isn’t yet very good at it.

The recipe I have for you today came via a mommy blog I get updates from, even though I don’t remember signing up for them. It’s for a chocolate cake made with black beans. The original recipe called for a can of chickpeas, but Lilli always breaks out in a rash whenever she eats hummus. I guess this is another trick to hide something healthy, like the chocolate zucchini cake from this summer, although the flavor is even more subtle here. I made some guests I had over for Chanukah sample the cake, and they described it as “very creamy.”

It’s a dead simple recipe – you dump the ingredients into a blender and press the button – so it’s very kid friendly. Instead of making a loaf, I make these in mini muffin tins, perfect for lunch sacks. It’s gluten free, and since the Conservative Movement announced that kitniyot (beans, rice and corn) are now permissible to eat, it’s now kosher for Passover. But you don’t have to wait until April to give this one a try.

Flourless Black Bean Chocolate Cakes

Ingredients
1 14 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of canola oil
Dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup mini chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini muffin pan.

In a blender, blend all the ingredients, except for the mini chocolate chips, until smooth. If necessary add more milk one teaspoon at a time.

Pour batter into the prepared muffin pan.

Sprinkle chips evenly on top of the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Make sure to let the muffins cool completely before you remove them.

Eating My Words

This week I did something I’m not proud of: I flipped through Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook Deceptively Delicious in the cookbook section of my local library. When her book came out not quite 10 years ago, I scoffed at its premise. Hiding vegetables in foods? I shook my head at parents who served their children pizza and chicken fingers for dinner. Just feed them what you eat; enough with the coddling of palates.

Of course, now I look back at the childless me and shake my head at my ignorance and naiveté. My toddler subsists on a diet of Cheerios, fruit, yogurt, cake, cheese, pizza, fish, rice, farro (?!), and plain pasta. It has to be plain: last week Rich deigned to put a pat of butter on her noodles and Lilli promptly announced it was now “garbage.”

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Oh look, a toddler eating mac and cheese.

I asked the pediatrician for advice. And you know what she said? Make sauces of things and hide them in foods she will eat. So there I stood in the library, looking through Mrs. Seinfeld’s cookbook. Let me be clear: Lilli loves helping out in the kitchen. She loves going to the grocery store with me and requesting mushrooms and broccoli and carrots. She loves choosing cookbooks off the shelf and bringing me photos of recipes that look good to her. She loves pulling up her Kitchen Helper to watch me slice summer squash and helps move it into a bowl. She just won’t eat what we cook.

But then it occurred to me: She loves learning about new foods, loves preparing vegetables and adores baking. Why not combine those things into one dish? And that’s how I found myself having her press the “on” button on my food processor as we grated zucchini for a very nice chocolate zucchini cake.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: is chocolate cake really the right sort of thing to be sneaking veggies into? But my approach was validated this week by our Shabbos dinner guests. Ellie, a very bright political science student at UMass, exclaimed that her mother Deborah used to do the exact same thing when she was a kid. Considering that Ellie seems poised to run the government some day, I think I might be on to something.

We found our recipe in Marcel Desaulniers Death by Chocolate Cakes: An Astonishing Array of Chocolate Enchantments. This book was handed off to me by my friend Gayle, who, if I’m not mistaken, just posted a recipe for chocolate zucchini cake on her own blog. I’d never heard of this baker, but Rich tells me there used to be a television show with the same name.

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The recipe is called Mimi Montano’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake, and it is pretty simple to throw together, although you have to wait a bit for it to cool down. Although the recipe says to bake for about an hour and 50 minutes, I found it was done in about an hour. I suspect it meant to say bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Whenever I see the direction to sift dry ingredients, I always whisk them in a bowl a few times. Works like a charm every time. I melt by chocolate in a glass in the microwave in 20 second spurts. If you use Earth Balance instead of butter this recipe can be parve.

And did it work? Did we succeed in Lilli eating food with zucchini folded into it? Not really, and really chocolate cake is not a healthy vehicle for even the most virtuous of vegetables. But Rich and I enjoyed slices for breakfast, trimmed slices whenever we walked by it in the kitchen, and were also happy to have it on hand when friends stopped by unexpectedly.

If you don’t need to sneak any vegetables, consider this a recipe to get rid of some of the zucchini your neighbors have been leaving on your front porch.

Mimi Montano’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 large zucchini (about ¾ pound), washed and stem removed

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 ½ cup vegetable oil

3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (one 12-ounce package)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325F. Liberally coat the inside of a 9 ½ x 4-inch nonstick Bundt pan with the 1 tablespoon melted butter. Set aside.

In a sifter combine 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Sift onto a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) and set aside until needed. (Or, just mix all these ingredients in a bowl and stir with a whisk a few times.)

Grate 1 large zucchini in a food processor fitted with a medium grating disk (or use a box grater). Set aside.

Place 1 ½ cups sugar and 4 eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes until light in color and thickened; then use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Operate the mixer on medium while slowly adding 1 ½ cups vegetable oil in a steady stream (it’s a good idea to use a pouring shield attachment or to cover the top of the mixer and sides of the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap to avoid splattering oil outside of the mixing bowl). Combine to mix until the batter is yellow in color and thick, about 1 ½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Continue to operate the mixer on medium speed and slowly add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the grated zucchini and mix on low for 15 seconds. Add 2 cups chocolate chips and mix on low for another 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter until thoroughly combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt cake pan, using a rubber spatula and spreading evenly.

Place the pan onto a baking sheet with sides on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted, between 50 minutes and an hour. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 30 minutes at room temperature. Unmold the cake from the pan. Place the cake, baked top facing up, on a cake circle (or onto a cake plate) and cool at room temperature for 1 additional hour before slicing.

To Serve: Heat the blade of a serrated slicer under hot running water and wipe the blade dry before cutting each slice. Serve immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and take a piece or two of cake along for the ride.

 

There Is No Wrong Answer

Growing up, Passover was the special time of year when my mom let us eat junk food. Looking back, I realize that had a lot to do with the availability of kosher junk food. The stores only stocked it at Passover, which meant it was the one time of year we got to have marshmallows or sugary rainbow fruit jells. Now that I’m a mom, I realize I’ve developed the same sort of habit in my own house. I lay low on rainbow hued candies, but Lilli is enjoying chocolate and Bissli, my favorite of the Israeli junk foods.

Lilli at zoo

As a general rule, I don’t serve matzo at my table; not worth the stomach ache. We do enjoy Tam Tams, and lucky for us, we haven’t had to convince Lilli to eat dried fruit alongside her crackers. She ate seven prunes in a row this weekend, and calls dried apples “apple candy.”

For the past few years I have purchased one box of matzo for the entire holiday, and it’s to fuel my Passover junk food tradition. Matzo crack, or matzo toffee if you’re feeling fancy, is pretty much the best thing you can do to matzo. Even better than shmearing it with Temp Tee whipped cream cheese and topping it with cherry preserves. I swear.

Research has told me that variations of this recipe have been floating around since 1985, which is the year that Marcy Goldman – she of the divine honey cakedeveloped this one. Now, I’ve seen many versions: Salted butter, unsalted butter, margarine. Sprinkled with salt (unnecessary if using salted butter),topped with nuts. White sugar, brown sugar. Let me be clear: IT’S ALL DELICIOUS. My recommendation is to trust your own palate and go with what suits you. There is no wrong answer for this one.

I saw a recipe earlier today that called for 2 cups, or 12 ounces of chocolate chips. Tonight I noticed that the Liebers’ bag of chocolate chips I always use is actually 9 ounces, and it works perfectly. This year I got all fancy and purchased a whisk and an offset spatula. But a fork to stir the sugar and butter into toffee and a butter knife to spread the chocolate works perfectly fine.

Matzo Crack

Ingredients

3 or 4 pieces of matzo, broken into large and small pieces to fit the pan

¾ cup or (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cubed

1 cup packed brown sugar (white sugar is fine if that’s what you have)

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 275F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place matzos in an even layer on the baking sheet. You will need to break the pieces of matzo to fit the pan. I find four pieces is generally how many it takes to fill the entire pan.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sugar and immediately reduce the temperature to low. Cook, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved, thickens and begins to bubble.

Drizzle the now-toffee over the matzo and spread it to cover using a butter knife, spatula or offset spatula.

Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake until the toffee gets shiny, which should take about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and evenly sprinkle the entire pan with the chocolate chips. Let stand for five minutes. The heat of the toffee will have begun to melt the chocolate; spread the chips across the matzos with an offset spatula, spatula or butter knife. If you’re using, sprinkle with salt and/or nuts.

Transfer the entire pan of matzo crack to the fridge and chill it for at least two hours.

Break the chilled matzo crack into pieces. Best to keep it stored in the refrigerator, although you probably won’t have leftovers.

You’ll Thank Me

I was so busy kvetching about my CSA last week that I forgot to tell you about our summer vacation. We drove to Montreal. To eat. The trip was inspired by Save the Deli, by David Sax. It’s a book about the slow death of the Jewish deli, and Sax devotes an entire chapter on eating in Montreal. I was sold. So when Lilli’s caretaker had her vacation, we took ours up north.

maison publique

It wasn’t the first time we’d been to Canada – Rich and I actually spent our honeymoon in Halifax. This time we stayed in a lovely AirBnB in Le Petite Laurier, a neighborhood most easily described as Park Slope-esque. I had actually done a bit of research before our trip – more than just reading Eater – and it turns out Montreal is very child-friendly. There’s the Biodome, and there are lots of playgrounds and splash parks, although they could use a little help in the stroller accessibility department. I’m now very impressed with the People with Disabilities Act in our country. Rich was impressed with the hundreds of cyclists that rolled by us every day on cycle tracks and bike boulevards.

mushrooms

And we ate. We ate everything: St. Viateur bagels, smoked meat at Schwartz’s (do the takeout window), poutine at La Banquise. Our first night in town we had an extraordinary meal at small, hip neighborhood place. Even Lilli enjoyed the tomato leaf papardelle with veal ragu. It turned out the place, Maison Publique, is one of the best new restaurants in all of Montreal – the chef was trained by Jamie Oliver. I went back on my own the last night we were in town to try a few other things on the menu, like green beans with anchovies and chile, and the sockeye salmon with peas and chanterelles.

berries

Like we do on all my vacations, we visited the public markets. Our first official day there we met up with friends in Little Italy, and they took us over to Jean-Talon, one of the largest outdoor covered markets in all of North America. I bought a basket of ground cherries as I roamed the stalls, snapping photos of the mushrooms and berries for sale. I enjoyed a balsamic macaron as I drooled over the hundreds of unpasteurized cheeses available, contraband back home. We walked about 10 miles that first day, down from Little Italy into the Mile End and Le Plateau.

peppers

Following our trip up North we drove down to Western Mass for a family bar mitzvah. That Saturday night my parents were kind enough to watch Lilli while Rich and I had a date in Northampton. We went to a new favorite of ours, The Dirty Truth, and ended the night at The Haymarket Café. Haymarket was founded when I was in high school in the 1990s as a bit of an anarchist’s bookstore and coffee shop. You had to go through the back parking lot, behind Main Street. Today Haymarket has a front door, as well as a second floor, and it serves dinner and dessert as well. I distracted myself from feeling very, very old by sharing a piece of lavender blueberry pie and this salted chocolate rye cookie.

I recognized the cookie as soon as I read the sign. It’s from Tartine Book No. 3, a cookbook which came out last year. (It was actually delayed three times; I know this because Sara is a Tartine junkie and was beside herself with every delay.) I had a version of it from Tasting Table in my recipe folder in my email. The cookie is extraordinary, definitely worth going out and buying rye flour at Whole Foods for it. Rich thinks they have a bit of spice to them, like a rye ale, while Mike said they were veering into brownie territory. I’ll tell you that they are a baked cookie with a center that remains soft on the inside. I brought some of these cookies along when Lilli, Rich and I joined Cara, Rosie and Ben for berry picking. Of course, I failed at packing an actual lunch for Lilli, but we did have these amazing cookies.

berry picking

The recipe calls for 1 pound chopped bittersweet chocolate (70%), preferably Valrhona, making it both a chocolatey and expensive dessert. Given the amount of chocolate I needed, I went to Target and bought several bags of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. They worked fine. The four eggs need to be at room temperature, but if you can’t wait, set them in a bowl of warm water. The dough does need some chilling to make it firm enough to scoop. I set the dough back in the fridge in between batches.

The one real change I made to the recipe was changing the muscavado sugar into dark brown sugar, making it a bit more affordable. The recipe says to bake them for between 8 and 10 minutes; in my oven it took 10 minutes to 13 minutes. This is a very good cookie. Please go make it. You’ll thank me.

Salted Chocolate-Rye Cookies Adapted from Tartine Book No. 3: A Modern Ancient Classic Whole

Ingredients

2 2/3 cups (1 pound) chopped bittersweet chocolate or (good quality chocolate chips)

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup whole-grain dark rye flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon fine salt

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 ½ cups dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Good quality flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel, for topping

Directions

Place a saucepan filled with 1 inch of water over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Set a heatproof bowl over the simmering water, taking care that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water, and melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally. Once melted remove from heat and let cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the rye flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed, adding the sugar a little bit at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated. Turn the mixer to high and whip until the eggs have nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted chocolate-butter mixture and the vanilla. Mix to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, then add in the flour mixture just until combined. At this point the dough will be very soft and loose, which is normal; it will firm up as it chills.

Refrigerate the dough until it is just firm to the touch, about 30 minutes, (The longer you chill the dough it’s harder to scoop.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and scoop with a rounded tablespoon onto the baking sheets, shaping the balls of dough into rounds and spacing them 2 inches apart. Top each mound of dough with a few flakes of sea salt, pressing gently so it adheres.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies have completely puffed up and have a smooth bottom and rounded top. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let cool slightly (the cookies may flatten a bit), then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. The cookies will keep up to 3 days in an airtight container, although we moved ours into the fridge at that point and enjoyed them over a week.