Matzo Meal

It’s been over a week since our Passover Seder. A box of unopened matzo is still staring at me from the kitchen counter where it sits patiently waiting to be eaten. Matzo in our house has almost become a holiday decoration like a tree ornament at Christmas. Something to be pulled out for the season and then packed away for the next year.

Before I went to put this matzo away I realized that the expiration date simply read PASSOVER 2015. In other words, the manufacturers want to guarantee I am going to buy another box next year. I am skeptical that matzo ever actually expires though. It would be impossible to get any staler than it already is!

At our Seder one of our guests was raving about making lasagna with matzo. I was sure a dish with cheese, a breadish product and some sauce could work at our house, so instead of dumping the box in the trash I opened it and gave it a go.

*Afikomen Lasagna

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. chopped beef or turkey

1 cup shredded carrots

1 garlic clove, minced

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp. basil

1 Tbsp. oregano

Salt & Pepper

1 container ricotta cheese, 16 oz

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp. parsley

2 cups shredded mozzarella, ½ cup reserved

¼ cup parmesan cheese

5-6 full size matzo crackers

Method

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped meat, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through and carrots are softened and starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and oregano to the meat mixture. Bring tomato mixture to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

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Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the ricotta cheese, egg, parsley, and mozzarella cheese.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the lasagna, ladle about ½ cup of the meat sauce onto the bottom of a 13X9 inch baking dish. Arrange the matzo crackers in a single layer to cover the bottom. Each layer uses about 1 ½ sheets of matzo.

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Next spread about a cup of the meat over the matzo “noodles”. Then add a cup of the ricotta cheese over that.

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Add another layer of matzo. Repeat twice. Top the lasagna with the remaining sauce, reserved mozzarella and sprinkle on the parmesan cheese.

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Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. If making ahead you can cover and refrigerate or freeze unbaked lasagna. Use a layer of plastic wrap before you cover with foil. Remove the plastic wrap before baking!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “There are matzo balls in this?”

Liam (age 6): “Pretty good”

Dylan (age 6): “I taste the afikomen but don’t see it”

*During Passover it is customary to play hide and seek with a piece of Matzo called the Afikomen. Children are rewarded with a small prize when they find the hidden piece of matzo and return it to the table. I decided to name our lasagna recipe after this tradition to see if my kids could “find” the matzo.

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Snow Day Circuits

Spending a snow day with three high-energy kids is a lot like circuit training at the gym. Our typical snow day workout goes like this:

Wake-up to a quick warm-up of milk and cartoons. Then it’s time to fuel up before heading out to shovel. Breakfast is important because getting on snow pants is a workout in itself. At best a 20 minute exercise, at worst a 45 minute drenching cardio segment. After driveway is cleared, it’s back inside for some hockey practice. No relaxing, maybe a quick water break to rehydrate. Once someone gets hit with a stick it’s time to move on to another activity. From the basement we rotate to the kitchen station for a little upper body work. A recipe involving dough is my preferred mode since there’s lots of kneading and rolling involved. And if we make the dough from scratch it means we can get in some dough punching after it rises. Bonus!

After kitchen time and a quick lunch we clear up and prepare for another cardio burst. With the lure of hot chocolate or a pack of Pokemon cards it’s back into snow pants for a brisk walk to town. Getting them back home needs another incentive. Promises of ice cream or a yummy dessert usually does the trick to motivate them to pick up the pace.

Back home the dough punching or rolling usually turns into “brother punching”. To cool things off we get in some mental exercise with a board game or two. This is the toughest part of the workout – but we are heading into the home stretch. After our last burst of energy we settle in for some screen time. While the boys zone out to TV or video games I can get dinner on table. Our last activity? A much anticipated dinner of serious carbo-loading and off to bed. And hopefully to school the next day!

Leftover Deep Dish Pizza (a perfect snow day recipe)                

Ingredients

For the dough:

½ cup warm water, about 105 degrees

½ packet active dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

¾ cup room temperature water

3 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 ½ tsp salt

For the toppings:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup tomato or pasta sauce

1 cup roasted sweet potato cubes (optional)

1 cup chopped leftover meatballs (optional)

1 cup shredded mozzarella

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Method

Mix warm water, yeast and sugar in a measuring cup. Let stand and dissolve until yeast starts to bubble and swell, about 5 minutes. Add room temperature water and oil, stir to combine.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and mix until a ball is formed. This can be done in a food processor as well. Dough will be very sticky and might need a little bit more flour but add in small amounts. Dust work surface with flour and knead dough to form a smooth round ball. Add a few sprinkles of flour as needed.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with oil and cover with plastic wrap.

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Let rise for at least 2 hours until doubled in size.

IMG_1985Punch dough down and divide in half, reserving one for another snowy day. Simply wrap the extra dough in plastic and refrigerate or freeze. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly oil a round cake pan, 9” diameter. Press the dough to fit evenly into the pan building up a lip around the edge of the pan. Let the dough rest a few minutes if it is snapping back. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork several times and then bake for about 5 minutes until dough is set.

IMG_1987Remove from oven and gently press down any bubbles that have formed.

Brush crust with the olive oil and add toppings. First layer the sauce and about half of the mozzarella.

IMG_1994Then toppings of your choice.

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Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan.

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Return to oven and bake until crust is lightly browned and cheese is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

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IMG_2001And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Wow, work of art”

Dylan (age 5): “That rised!”

Liam (age 5): “You gotta love cheese!”

Snow days are never easy but if you have this to look forward to they’re not so bad!

 (recipe for pizza dough adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated)

BBQ in BKLYN

Last week we took a road trip to Brooklyn for a BBQ.  After two years on a waiting list my good friend had scored the impossible – a 2BDRM 2BATH apartment with an outdoor space!  A rarity in New York where outdoor spaces usually comprise of fire escapes or tar rooftops. This was a genuine deck; big enough for a patio table, chaise lounge AND grill.

The best feature, aside from the grill, was ample space for our kids to run around while my friends and I could enjoy some wine and cheese, and an actual conversation. My kids were almost as thrilled as I was.

We had to endure two hours of traffic to get to there. The amount of times three children can say “Mommy, are we there yet?” during a ride of that duration is truly mind-boggling. But we eventually saw the sign that we had arrived:

hype

My friend had just purchased her grill and we were christening it that night. Dinner was hamburgers and flank steak pinwheels stuffed with spinach and cheese. The boys were excited about the hamburgers, but I was eager to taste the flank steak pinwheels. They were so delicious I decided to recreate it this week with a different stuffing, as I was still thinking about them.

On the trek home, the boys fell fast asleep; snug in their PJ’s – dreaming of who knows what – And I enjoyed a quiet, traffic-free, ride home.

oyveysignb

Flank Steak

Ingredients:

1 (1 1/2 or 2-pound) flank steak, butterflied *

4 oz. prosciutto, thinly sliced, (about 6-8 slices)

4 oz. mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (6 slices)

1 roasted red pepper, cut in strips

15 fresh basil leaves

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper

* Have your butcher butterfly the steak. The meat dept. at any supermarket will do this.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the steak on a flat surface; cut side up, with the grain of the meat running from left to right. Season the top of steak with salt and pepper. Then layer the surface with the prosciutto slices, next top with the mozzarella cheese. Add the strips of peppers and top with a layer of basil leaves.

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Tightly roll the flank steak around the filling (steak should be rolled parallel to the grain). Using kitchen string, tie the roll every two inches or so. Season the roll all around with salt and pepper.

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In a large ovenproof skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, sear each side of the roll, approximately 2-3 minutes per side.

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Once the steak is seared on all sides, place the skillet in the oven and bake the steak for about 30 minutes until desired doneness.

Transfer the steak from the skillet to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into individual rolls.

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Note 1: 125-130 degrees internal temperature is medium rare; which is best for this type of steak. You will need a meat thermometer for this recipe.

Note 2: Normally I would try this on the grill but it was pouring rain that night. Cooking this in the oven was easy, but way more clean up.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Not bad – works for me… I like this basil”

Liam (age 4): “I knew this lunch would be bad!”

Dylan (age 4): “Basil makes it yucky but I like the ham so much”

Secretly, I was hoping they wouldn’t eat it so there would be lots of leftovers. This came out even better than I had expected – YUM! 

Happy Grilled Cheese to you!

In case you didn’t know, April is National Grilled Cheese month. We take this time to celebrate and reflect….. on grilled cheese. Laugh all you want – but not only does grilled cheese get a month long celebration – it gets a separate day of honor as well, April 12th, National Grilled Cheese Day. In this country we take our grilled cheese as seriously as the Super Bowl.

Food for thought: why do our presidents get a one-day holiday and grilled cheese a month? Wonder if this would offend George and Abe? I would like to think they would rustle themselves up a gooey grilled cheese and have a chuckle about it.

Since the occasion was not marked on our calendar we missed out on many days of grilled cheese celebration. Would anyone in my house mind eating grilled cheese everyday for a month? I highly doubt it – next year I will be better prepared and plan ahead for this holiest of holidays!

In honor of the Holy Grail of sandwiches I came up with a somewhat unorthodox version that involved peas. It did not go well… here is the one that came after…

Roasted Tomato & Mozzarella Mini-Melt

Ingredients:

Roasted Tomato Pesto

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp

Kosher salt & pepper

1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

Zest of 1 lemon

Sandwiches

12 slices sourdough baguette, 1/2” thick

6 slices fresh mozzarella, 1/4” thick

3 slices thinly sliced prosciutto, halved

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the cherry tomatoes with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil and spread in one layer on baking sheet, season with salt. Roast for approximately 30 minutes until charred in spots, shaking pan about halfway through.

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Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Combine roasted tomatoes, grated cheese, garlic, lemon zest in food processor. Pulse until a paste forms and then add the olive oil and pulse again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble: Spread roasted tomato pesto on both top and bottom of the sandwich. Top one side with slice of mozzarella and prosciutto and then place the top halves on the bottoms.

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Place assembled sandwiches back on baking sheet and cook approximately 20 minutes, turning once so both sides get crispy.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 5): “It looks so yummy but it is not so yummy”

Liam (age 4): “I don’t like this sandwich, I thought I would. It tastes annoying, sorry food”

Dylan (age 4): “It tastes like bugs- what kind of sandwich is this? Not grilled cheese…”

Luckily I had saved all the leftovers from the pea fiasco and they devoured those instead. Funny how things work out….

Moral of the story: Leave the grilled cheese to Brian!

“Little boys don’t eat salad”

Last week, our salad experiment was kind of a bust. So this week I am taking my big sister’s advice, which means I can blame her if it goes awry! Her suggestion was to make a version of panzanella salad.

A panzanella is essentially a salad of stale bread, tomatoes and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. That is the base of it and other ingredients can be added to make it more of a meal.  I am going to include mozzarella cheese, roasted peppers and some prosciutto. A salad with cheese and bread – might just work!

Don’t have any stale bread? Not a problem. I had some pancetta bread, fresh from a trip to Arthur Avenue (the Bronx’s “Little Italy”), which I cut into bite size pieces and toasted. Any bread will do, just make sure it is the consistency of a crouton. I also crisped up the prosciutto and crumbled it to mimic bacon bits. For the tomatoes I used the smallest, sweetest variety I could find and since I had lots of salty ingredients, I went with a honey Dijon dressing for some sweetness.

This is such a simple salad to prepare and extremely easy to manipulate according to different tastes. I think I covered all the bases so let’s get to the tasting!

Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

Ingredients:

6 thinly sliced pieces of prosciutto

1 cup stale bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 roasted red pepper, diced into bite size pieces

1 roasted yellow pepper, diced into bite size pieces

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 lemon

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp honey

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread prosciutto slices on a baking sheet and bake in oven approximately 15-18 minutes. Let cool and crumble into small pieces. (Can be done ahead – refrigerate in airtight container)

If you are starting with fresh bread, place bread on a baking sheet and bake in oven with prosciutto, approximately 10 minutes, until toasted. Let cool before adding to salad. (Can be done ahead- store in airtight container)

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Combine the bread, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and proscuitto crumble in a large mixing bowl.

For the dressing whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Use about 3 Tbsp of the dressing to drizzle over the salad and refrigerate the rest. You can keep the dressing for several weeks, just shake well before serving.

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Lastly, sprinkle the fresh basil over the top of the panzanella and serve!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 5): “I don’t like the peppers but cheese, bread and bacon, THUMBS UP!

Liam (age 3): “This salad makes me mad”

Dylan (age 3): “Little boys don’t eat salad!” “I like the sauce you made but the salad part tastes like a leaf – yuck”

Okay, I confess, I did promise a cookie for dessert if they tried the salad. But amazingly enough, once they did eat some they seemed to genuinely enjoy it. Even Liam, although he would NEVER admit it!

The leftovers

The leftovers