Corn Syrup: Ruining Passover

Long before the war on corn syrup became public in the case of Michael Pollan vs. Corn Refiners Association, I despised the stuff. But only for 8 days out of the year.

For Passover, which starts sundown on Monday, observant Jews are not to eat leavened bread, legumes, corn, rice and most other grains. It’s tough. But it’s made all the more difficult when my favorite foods as a child were laced with high fructose corn syrup.

I couldn’t chew regular gum, couldn’t bathe my pancakes in syrup (we used Aunt Jemima, but I think real maple syrup would be okay?) couldn’t squirt ketchup on my fries, couldn’t drink Coke, couldn’t indulge in coffee ice cream and the list goes on. I never understood what corn syrup was or why it was in EVERYTHING. But I fucking hated it because it made Passover that much worse. I could live without bread, but without real gum?! Ugh – have you ever tried Bazooka “Jew”? It’s awful.

Anyway, it’s that time of year again when Jews commemorate the parting of the Red Sea. (And maybe this year we’ll read about it in gender neutral terms!) Here are some ideas to keep you bread and corn-syrup free for the holiday.

Before Passover
Get rid of that leftover bread

Za’atar Breaded Chicken with Avocado and Carrot Salad

Savory French Toast with Creamed Herbs and Zucchini

Peanut Butter and Apple Sandwich

Apple Walnut French Toast

During Passover
“Enjoy” Matzah

Acorn Squash and Leek Muffins with Matzah Meal

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Hanukkah: A Celebration of Oil

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Growing up I hated it when Hanukkah and Christmas didn’t overlap. It reminded me how different I was in such a Christian country. Sure, I received presents first, but by the time my Jesus-following friends ripped open their gifts of My Little Pony and bikes and, lets be honest, socks, I forgot about my equally as lame cool gear.

But as my brother and sister and I moved out of the house, and as we all maintained different schedules, it no longer mattered when Hanukkah (its date determined by the Hebrew calendar) landed. We knew we’d all be home over Christmas, so that is when we exchanged gifts. In fact, it became our ritual to exchange on Christmas night — we knew all of our friends would be busy with their families.

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. And I’d never been so happy to have the Festival of Lights occur this far from Christmas and this close to Thanksgiving.

Cue the mashed potatoes.

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The Great Bagel Debate: Montreal v. NYC

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A little over a month ago I ventured to the FAR NORTH with my new hubbie (Romeo).  That’s right folks, I’m talking about Canada.  We spent a little under a week in Montreal, an exceedingly charming city full of appealing, beautiful, smiling, amiable people who seemed to do almost everything better than their southern neighbors.

Our luggage arrived at baggage claim within mere seconds of us exiting the secure area and public transportation was far-advanced and gloriously easy to understand. The city was thoroughly walkable and every neighborhood left us gasping at its beauty. Nearly everyone was bilingual yet didn’t look down on us for our inability to speak French. The food courts were full of healthy food: fresh and delicious and diverse. The more upscale dining joints were completely comfortable with my food limitations and whipped up thoroughly decadent dishes.

Everything was beautiful, perfect and French Canadian.  I was in love.

I was eager to try one particular morsel of Montreal cuisine that I had heard about from all the Canucks I’ve ever known:  The Montreal bagel.

Every Canuck I’ve come across has sung the praises of the Montreal bagel, asserting its clear superiority over the New York bagel.  As it was hard for me, the daughter of a New York Jew, to imagine any way of improving on a genuine New York bagel (far easier to improve on the piss-poor excuse for bagels we tend to encounter in DC), I couldn’t wait to try this mythic culinary invention.

Would the Montreal bagel stand up to my expectations? And what’s the difference between a Montreal bagel and a NYC bagel anyway? Answers after the jump….

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Checking in with the Cheftestants: Alex’s Chocolate Bread Pudding

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We don’t care if they’re not a champ or a Padma — if they’ve been on Top Chef, ES is down for stalking them. Today, Kat from Good Bite checks in with nice guy/also-ran Alex Eusebio from season five.

I’ve always wondered what happens to the contestants who get voted off the shows like Top Chef and Next Food Network Star. My guess is they either open a restaurant, go back to working in a kitchen, or go back to their day job, the best of these three outcomes is transforming that 15 minutes of fame into an actually self-owned eatery. And that is exactly what has happened for Top Chef season five contestant Alex Eusebio who recently opened the adorable Sweetsalt Food Shop with his wife in Toluca Lake, California. At Sweetsalt guests can stock up on both sweets and savories like Coffee-Braised Short Rib Roll, Champagne Chicken Salad, and the Pack Your Knives Crème Brulee.

Today, chef Alex shares his recipe for a rich and creamy bread pudding, the ultimate comfort dessert, enjoy!

Recipe: Sweetsalt’s Chocolate Bread Pudding

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Just Two More Meals

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With only two more meals left for Passover 2010, there’s the urge to never eat matzoh again, yet still use it all before its time is up. Matzoh as a cracker isn’t terrible, as I slathered on smoked whitefish salad and pushed raw onion and raw broccoli into the creamy mixture, simply topped with freshly ground black pepper. Matzoh is also tolerable as a base for melted cheese and salsa, as my sister discovered.

But I think matzoh is best when you can barely taste it at all. So, for you, the lonely observant Jews, for when every one else has longed reincorporated pizza and pasta into their diets, you have fought through the carb cravings and lasted until this eighth and final day. Here is a way to hide your matzoh.

Matzoh and Swiss Omelet

A few weeks ago at the farmers’ market I bought these long, slender greens that basically looked like grass. At the ends there was some barely leafy parts, but it mostly just looked like grass. And I totally can’t remember the name.

Nonetheless, I sliced it to about the size of my pinkie nail (currently painted in Essie’s Mint Candy Apple) and quickly softened it in a pan with butter. I then added in broken up matzoh bits, letting the matzoh also soften.

In a bowl I beat two eggs and threw in raw garlic. I poured the egg mixture over the greens and matzoh and tried to swipe around the sides to let the uncooked eggs start to cook. I seasoned the eggs with salt and pepper and then flipped the egg mixture over once the bottom started to firm up. I lowered the heat then tore up two slices of swiss and placed a lid over the pan. After about 2 minutes, the cheese still hadn’t melted and the eggs were starting to brown on the bottom.

I decided to flip it again, letting the cheese directly hit the pan. I was nervous that the cheese would burn, or stick. or the whole thing would get messed up. But I guess the cheese and butter had enough fat that the cheese slid around in the pan and was able to melt, but then also easily move to the plate.

Enjoy, especially not tasting the matzoh, which really only gives the open faced omelet some body and texture, but not that gross matzoh stale taste.

And now you can start thinking (if you haven’t already) how you’re going to break Passover.

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I Mention Rachael Ray in this Post

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The Jewish calendar is lunar and therefore Passover can land anywhere between the end of March to the end of April. My birthday is at the end of March, my mom’s birthday is at the beginning of April and my sister’s birthday is at the end of April so it’s a always a hold your breath moment to find out who’s birthday will take place during this dreaded no-bread, no-cake, no-ice cream, no-soft pretzel eight day stretch.

This year it’s so early that this spring themed holiday can’t feature the season’s produce. We usually serve asparagus, but this year we still had to rely on winter’s hold overs. I’m a bit tired of winter squash, as is the rest of the Northeast, I’m sure.

With Passover, though, I wanted to think of something slightly new. Maybe not in flavor, but in form.

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