Post 42: Short-cuts to holiday preparation; Chanuka dessert: Erin McKenna’s blueberry muffins (with modifications), applesauce from apples,frozen blueberries and cherries, Fish in Saffron Harissa Tamarind Sauce

Short-cuts to holiday preparation:
The reason to start baking on Wednesday or even earlier for a crowd on Friday is that it permits you to go out and enjoy the holiday. That is exactly what I did last Friday. 
Recommendation for shortcuts and organization: I remember one Passover in Queens working with my helper. She had never seen a high powered food processor. I was shredding potatoes. She commented, “it’s like having another set of hands working for you”. Yes, we can appreciate all the tools and appliances that make our lives easier.
 1. If you have on hand the ingredients that are used often, this makes your life easier. Flours can be stored in the freezer. 
2. Other staples can be made very simply in a coffee grinder. I use the Cuisinart chopper mini-mate plus to make oat flour from whole oats, flax meal, and even chia seeds can be ground to a flaky consistency. All of these are rich in protein, iron, dietary fiber and calcium (more so for the chia seeds. All of these are great substitutes for matzah meal in potato latkas.
3.I find roasting sliced zucchini is less hands on than shredding.
4.If you keep batches of soaked  and roasted nuts and seeds in the fridge or on a shelf (short-term), on hand  and  baking will go smoothly and it will be fun. Same idea for potatoes. Peel, keep in zip-locks in the fridge and par boil them in batches for fresh latkas as you want them. That’s how potatoes are delivered to restaurants. No need to add lemon.
5.This method also works for preparing cooked fruits for compote.  Prepare two kilos of peeled cored apples plus frozen cherries/blueberries and a table spoon of apple juice with just enough water to cover the bottom of a pressure cooker, will make a great, no sugar apple sauce, to serve with latkas. If you keep the fruit chucky you have a pie filling. Or the result can be blended with an immersion blender if you like a fine consistency. I prefer to leave the chunks and mash the water that will develop after pressure cooking into the fruit. NO SUGAR ADDED. And my frozen fruits are VERY sour.
4.In an earlier post I suggested that Sufganiyot (Israeli Jelly Doughnuts) are not necessarily unhealthy. Made a batch last year with the help of my grand-daughter-the dough freezes great! We weighed out 40gram balls and took them out to fry on the day that they were served. Sufganiyot (Israeli Jelly Doughnuts).I doubled the recipe for a crowd. Also left some in the fridge to have on hand for guests (grandkids) that missed the first batch!
 6.In almost all of my Chanukah recipes I’ve substituted flax seed meal for eggs. The results in the soufganiot and latkahs have been very successful.
This post Erin McKenna’s blueberry muffins (with modifications)
Servings:Over 8
Difficulty: Moderate
Cook Time: 30-60 min

Who doesn’t love a good dessert? Cupcakes and muffins can be delicious delights for many, but for people with food allergies these treats can cause a lot of health problems. Here is the gluten-free blueberry muffin recipe


  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour or Spelt Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flax meal
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 3/4 cup rice milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1  tab. pure lemon extract
  • 2/3 cup fresh blueberries or 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • or sliced zucchini that has been baked roasted in a hot oven. SQUEEZED dry and run thru the mini cuisinart for 2 seconds.
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashews which have been soaked(2 hours)and roasted

Cooking Directions

Preheat the oven to 325/180 degrees . Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Or use silicon loaf pan to make cakes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, flax meal,half the cashews and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, rice milk, vanilla and lemon extract to the dry ingredients, and stir until the batter is smooth. Using a plastic spatula, gently fold in the blueberries /zucchini just until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter. Top with remaining cashews.

Pour 1/3 cup batter into each prepared cup, almost filling it or divide between two loaf pans. Bake the muffins on the center rack for 22 minutes, rotating the tin 180 degrees after 15 minutes. The finished muffins will bounce back slightly when pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

Let the muffins stand in the tin for 15 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely. Store the muffins in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Recipe summary Arlene Groner, a member of Jerusalem Macrolovers presented these Zucchini muffins at a Sukot Kenes a while back. They were received with great enthusiasm. This is a much simpler recipe than the Vegetable in a Cake that I posted earlier.

Main Ingredients: gluten-free baking flour, xanthan gum, coconut oil, agave nectar, rice milk, blueberries

Course: Breakfast, Brunch, Snack, Dessert

More Info: Wheat/Gluten Free

Fruit compote using Pressure Cooker

Winter Fruit Compote

Yield: 3 1/2 – 4 cups

Winter Fruit Compote


  • 1 – 2 navel oranges
  • 1 3/4 cups filtered water
  • 1/2 of a cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 of a star anise
  • 1 large Gala apple
  • 1 large ripe D’anjou or Bartlett pear
  • 1/2 cup dried Calimyrna figs, quartered
  • 1/2 cup prunes
  • 2 tablespoons dried bing cherries


  1. Using a swivel peeler, cut 2 strips of orange peel from the orange and squeeze 1/3 cup of juice from the oranges. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan combine water, cinnamon, star anise, and orange peel. (The size is important – if you use too big of a saucepan, the fruit won’t be covered by the sauce and it won’t cook evenly.) Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. While sauce is cooking, peel and core apple and pear. Slice 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Stir figs, prunes, and cherries into sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Add apples and simmer for 3 -4 minutes, then add pears for the last 2 minutes. Apples and pears should be al dente – they will continue to cook as the compote cools. Stir in orange juice, cover, and let cool for 20 minutes. Strain compote through a fine mesh strainer catching juice. Return juice to pan, bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 10 – 15 minutes until juice has thickened and is syrupy. Let syrup cool. Pour on top of fruit and serve, or cover and chill.


Fish in Saffron Harissa Tamarind Sauce


Poached fish balls in saffron tomato sauce has added garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander and harissa. If you like, add 1 tablespoon chopped green olives and 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped North African preserved lemon. Serve the fish stew hot with couscous or fresh bread as a main dish.

 1⁄8 tsp. saffron threads

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

700 g. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped; or an 800-gr. can tomatoes, drained and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup fish or vegetable stock

1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin

1⁄2 tsp. ground coriander

1⁄4 tsp. turmeric

1 to 2 tsp. harissa (North African hot pepper-garlic paste), s’hug (Yemenite hot pepper-garlic paste) or other

pepper paste or hot sauce, or to taste

700 g. to 850 g. fish fillets, such as cod, halibut or sea bass, cut in 2.5-cm. cubes or in strips


Slightly crush saffron with your fingers and soak in the oil in a small cup about 20 minutes. Transfer to a large saute pan or skillet. Add onion and saute over medium low heat for about 5 minutes or until onion is tender but not brown. Add garlic and cook 1⁄2 minute, stirring. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, about 8 to 10 minutes or until sauce is thick. Add stock, cumin, coriander and turmeric and bring to a simmer.

Add fish cubes, salmon and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, spooning sauce over fish from time to time, for 5 minutes or until they have changed color and are just cooked through. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning.

Makes 4 main course or about 6 fish-course servings

Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes and Feast from the Mideast.

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