Passover Chocolate Torte…For Valentine’s Day!

Passover Chocolate Torte

Valentine’s Day is important and meaningful to me and to our family for one reason alone.  Alex, our daughter, and  first of five children, was born on that day!   I had been due to give birth on February 5, 1980.   But Alex was in no hurry.  It was now nearly midnight on  February 12, 1980, and I would be in labor for the next 25 hours.  Alex, my beautiful daughter was born at 12:52 a.m. February 14, 1980, fulfilling all of my dreams to be a mommy.  They brought my little girl to me in a bassinet filled with hearts, and my heart melted as I held my daughter for the first time.

What does all of this have to do with Chocolate Torte you might be wondering.  Well, In 1987, the PTA of Sinai Akiba Academy, the Jewish Day School Alex attended, published a Passover cookbook called Pesach Potpourri which was filled with Passover recipes.  In the cookbook there was a recipe for a Chocolate Torte by Linda G. Mayman, that became Alex’s favorite cake.  When Alex was about ten she started requesting the Torte for her birthday cake.  So every year my Valentine’s girl gets a Passover Chocolate Torte in the shape of a heart.  Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe here and there, and that is the version I give you here.

Click on the video below for the step by step recipe:

Chocolate Nut Torte

  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 9 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1-1/2 sticks unsalted margarine unsalted (room temperature, cut in pieces)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • dash salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Grease a heart-shaped or round 9 inch cake pan and line the bottom and sides with a piece of parchment paper.  Set aside.  In a food processor grind the nuts together with the sugar until fine.  Add the potato starch to the food processor and pulse a bit to mix it in with the nut mixture.  Remove to a bowl.

In a small saucepan over very low heat, slowly melt the chocolate, coffee granules, brandy and water, stirring until smooth.  Separate the 4 eggs while keeping an eye on the chocolate mixture.  Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the egg yolks.  Return the pan to low heat and stir in the margarine, a few pieces at a time.  Stir until melted, then add the nut mixture and stir until it is melted in.

Beat egg whites with dash of salt until soft peaks form.  Slowly beat in 1/4 cup sugar, and continue to beat until stiff.

Stir a dollop of egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the rest.  Pour into the cake pan and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove cake from oven and allow it to cool.

Once cool you may freeze the cake or refrigerate it for up to 2 days.  Before serving the cake frost it with the following Chocolate Glaze:

Chocolate Nut Torte Glaze

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 -2 tablespoons coffee (to your liking)
  • 3 tablespoons margarine
  • Slivered Almonds for garnish

Stir the chocolate and the coffee in a small saucepan over low heat and add the margarine.  Once all of the ingredients are mixed and melted remove from heat.  Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes and then you may glaze the Torte provided that the Torte has cooled down to room temperature.

Serves 12 – 16

Enjoy!

One Year Later – Remembering My Mom

My beautiful mom.

My beautiful mom.

Dear Readers,

This Blog has never been intended for only recipes.  Herein, are recipes, stories, or a combination of both, that express the essence of life.

A year has swiftly passed since I lost my mother, Martha Schneider.  I thank you for accompanying me through the loss and mourning of my dear mother.

Today I went to her graveside, and here I offer the following thoughts.

Mommy, as I sit here at the place you were laid to rest, I ponder the enormity of your loss.  I struggle with the concept of moving forward and the desperate desire to remember and cling to every detail of our lives together.

Your black cain still hangs on the towel rack where you last left it, one year ago.  It hangs as forlorn and lonely as my heart.  it asks, like I, where have you gone.  The little yellow daisies you so liked, that grow outside your bedroom window, are back in bloom yet they are sad because your eyes cannot rest upon them.  The view you so enjoyed sadly peers backward into the house, also to see where you have gone.

Daddy asks for you each day, where is mom, where is my wife…

It’s so quiet without you mom, yet there is a clamor in my heart, screaming this memory or that.  The memory of a telling glance in which our eyes, without words said how much we loved each other.

As the days and weeks, the months and years, unfold before me, I will write your story, every detail every nuance, for I want to hold it and cradle it and take it in through my very pores so that I never lose it.

That is my biggest fear, forgetting the details, your warm touch, your loving caress, your pretty green eyes, your face.

While my tears pour incessantly on your headstone, as I run my fingers across the bronze letters that spell out your name, I know it’s time to pull myself up and away from this place.  I know I must move forward and remain optimistic and happy, for no one taught me more than you, that life is beautiful.

And so I go now mom, so that I may live that beautiful life, while always remembering you and carrying you in and on my heart every instant that it beats within me.

Fiesta Latkes For Chanukkah!

These fiesta latkes, are spicy, delicious and colorfully festive.  You can accompany them with that good old sour cream and applesauce, or you can do what we did, by accompanying them with a sweet and spicy Jalapeño jelly, or  a schmear of refried beans!

Fiesta Latkes

  • 3 Russet potatoes peeled and quartered
  • 1 carrot peeled
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 onion peeled and quartered
  • 1 Serrano chilli pepper finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove mashed
  • 1/3 cup parsley
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup corn flour – Masa Harina (all-purpose flour or matzoh meal are o.k. too)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
  • Canola or olive oil as needed for frying the latkes

Blanche the potatoes and the carrot in boiling water for three minutes, remove from water and allow them to cool.  Once cool, shred them in a food processor along with the zucchini and onion.  Transfer mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.

Pour about ¼ cup of oil into a frying pan and heat well.  Take about ¼ cup measurements of mixture and place one by one in the hot oil, flattening out each latke with the back of a spatula.  It will take about 5 minutes for the latkes to brown, then turn them over and brown them on the opposite side.  As each latke is ready remove it to a baking pan lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Serve the latkes while still warm.  They may be accompanied by applesauce and or sour cream.  We accompanied them with Jalapeño jelly from the farmer’s market and Crema Mexicana, a delicious Mexican style cream.

This recipe makes about 2 dozen latkes.

Delicious Refried Beans

Refried beans are the ultimate comfort food and they are great as an appetizer with chips or to accompany almost any meal.  I serve them as a side dish with my Tacos, Taquitos, Tostadas, Enchiladas, quesadillas and even with my Chanukkah Latkes!  Just a plain taco of these refried beans in a hot corn tortilla is incredible. My recipe is straightforward..too many ingredients and spices interfere with the pure delicious flavor of the beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. package dry black beans
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 2 large garlic cloves whole
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 onions chopped

Method:

Inspect the beans for any small stones or other particles and remove. Place the beans in a strainer and rinse thoroughly with cool water, and then pour them into a bowl and let them soak for 2 hours.

Pour the beans into a pot,  add the quartered onion and garlic cloves and cover with water.  Bring the beans to a boil, then lower to a medium high heat, and allow them to simmer rapidly for about one hour or until they are softened.   It is IMPORTANT that you add water every so often until the beans are cooked.  You want to end up with plenty of bean broth.  When the beans are very tender and edible add salt, stir, and allow to simmer 10 more minutes.

Place canola oil in a large frying pan and heat well.  Add the chopped onions and stirring them constantly allow them to become a very deep golden brown, (almost, but not burnt)

Using a slotted spoon add the beans  to the onions and begin mashing them with a masher, then slowly add the bean broth constantly mixing it in, while at the same time mashing the beans.  The broth will evaporate and as it does add more broth. It is up to you how dry you want your beans.  When I am serving them as an appetizer with chips, I allow the broth to evaporate to the point where they become almost a paste.  If I am serving them as a side dish I leave them a bit moist.  If you find that the beans need more salt add it at this point.

Try out this recipe and let me know how it goes.

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving…Without Mom

Lists written down,  assignments confirmed, shopping trips made – all was put into action like a general about to enter the battlefield, everything was perfectly and strategically planned.   My mother’s Thanksgiving preparation swung into full gear.  This was her holiday.  She was 88 but her mind was sharp. “Susie”, she said to me just a year ago,  “I got the yams and the cranberry sauce and the peas you love.  You’ll make the Guacamole, the stuffing and the salad as usual…what kind of wine does Iche like again? I got all of the kids’ favorite appetizers and oh, I ordered the turkeys from Doheny Kosher, can you just confirm that they’ll be delivered by 2:00 p.m., sliced?  You know how Michael gets impatient with me if I call him too much…”  Those were some of the words uttered by my mother as Thanksgiving approached.

This year Thanksgiving is making me look at loss in the face.  The dull ache somewhere between my stomach and my heart grows more intense as the day approaches.   I feel adrift again without my guide…my mom.    We’ve decided to have Thanksgiving at my mother and father’s house, where we’ve had it for 38 years.   We will affirm life without denying the difficulty of loss, as our family comes together, because it’s what we all want. It will be so hard without my mom, but I know that we honor her memory by being together, a family united at the dining room table with the mirrored wall behind. One by one, we will each rise to say what we are thankful for.  I just know mommy, we will all be thankful for being together, because that was the greatest value you imparted…time shared with those you love.   We will affirm how thankful we all are for having had you in our lives.

May all of you have a beautiful Thanksgiving surrounded by those you love!

Shabbat Dinner for 60 by Susie

Susie with the dishes right before they go out the door (sorry it’s not a great photo)

Hello everyone — Alex here.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted but I just had to on this auspicious occasion because I don’t think my Mom will brag about it enough! I am so proud of her because she just sent off dinner for 60 people for her first catering job. The event is a young Jewish professionals Shabbat dinner in Santa Monica. Here’s what’s on the menu:

- Best Guacamole & Spicy Salsa Verde

- Fideos (Mexican Lokshen)

- Aztec Portobello & Corn

- Breaded Cauliflower in Tomato Sauce

- Hungarian Roasted Paprika Chicken

- Classic Salad with Red Wine Vinegar Dressing

We will update with photos of the dishes once we receive them after the event.

60 people isn’t too much more than my Mom has done here at the house for one of our Sukkot dinners, so she has the organization before such an event down pat. No hectic moments. It was very cool (and a little odd) to pack it all up in aluminum, label it and send it off. But it was a very happy and proud moment.

Also: I’d like to announce that this is the beginning of our availability as caterers for certain select events around the Los Angeles area!  Please get in touch if you want to discuss at susanak@earthlink.net. 

Thanks as always for reading and sticking with us through our Mexican Jewish journey.

Bobe’s Cuernito Cookie Recipe – Que Ricas!!!

Bobe’s Cuernito Cookie Recipe

Alex and Anita went to Mexico City to learn and film a few of their Bobe’s (Grandma’s) recipes.  Click on The picture of Bobe (above) to view the video of her and Anita in the kitchen.  Follow  the instructions in this 5 minute video to learn how to make these delicious cookies that are a family favorite!   Keep in mind that in Mexico temperature is measured in Centigrade, which is why in the video Bobe says 200 degrees (392 degrees Farenheit). Bobe aslo mentions 1/2 kilo of margarine, which is 1.1 pounds of margarine, or a little over 4 sticks.

 

Recipe: Cuernito Butter Walnut Cookies

 Dora Schmidt prepares a batch of Cuernito butter walnut cookies.

Enlarge Courtesy Alex Schmidt Dora Schmidt prepares a batch of Cuernito butter walnut cookies.

Makes 4 dozen small cookies

Dora Schmidt learned this recipe from a Mexican Jewish friend, originally from Poland, many years ago. The cookies are, however, traditionally served at Mexican weddings.

2 cups ground walnuts
1/2 kilo margarine (or butter), softened – this is about 4 sticks plus 1 tablespoon
5 cups of flour
12 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Knead together walnuts, margarine (cut in pieces and room temperature), 5 cups of flour, sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl until all ingredients are combined and mixture is even.  Take about 1-1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll it  into a thick rope to form horseshoe or u-shaped cookies. Place cookies onto 2 baking pans sprayed with a small amount of cooking spray. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (about 200 Centigrade, as mentioned in the video). Bake cookies for 15 minutes. Cookies are done when they are no longer shiny, and have grown slightly. Do not allow to brown. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool roughly 15 – 30 minutes (as they cool they will harden).  Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar over the cookies (this is in addition to the sugar that goes into the dough mixture).

Enjoy!

Club Med…Where I Met My Beshert

As I sat far away from our  house in Los Angeles, I thought about how lucky I’d felt the day I’d pulled that letter out of the mailbox.  I screamed when I read the return address…”Place De La Bourse, Paris, France”.   My heart pounded as I tore the envelope open, and read the enclosed contract to be a “Hostess.”  I had no idea what that involved, but I didn’t care,  my dream was to travel and my plan was to have Club Med pay for my travels.  I’d gotten the job! I’d been hired to work  at Club Med, and included in the envelope was an airline ticket to Manzanillo,  a beach resort on the pacific coast of Mexico, north of Acapulco.  I ran into the house screaming “Mom, Dad,  Club Med hired me! Mom, thank you for making me go to the French Lycee when I was little, thank you, thank you!”

I had gone shopping for a special outfit for the interview.  I looked in the mirror of the fitting room at The Broadway Department Store (now Bloomingdale’s) in Century City.  I had finally shed my baby fat, and felt like a woman for the first time… boy, that had taken a long time!  I bought mint green pants and a matching mint and white striped sweater.  At the interview, which took place fully in French, I had felt confident, and powerful and beautiful!

I was 22 years old, had just graduated college, and felt on top of the world sitting in the Lobby of Club Med, Playa Blanca .  One week  after I’d arrived, I felt like a princess on a throne when I noticed a guy walking up to me.  The whole scene was unusual in that he was bare-chested and wearing a black and white printed Pareo (sarong) from his waist down, and in the Pareo he had tucked a large red hibiscus, a flower prevalent at the club.  Around his neck he wore a leather cigarette case, in which he carried his favorite cigarettes, Pall Malls without filter.  His dark brown wavy hair fell below his ears and he sported long sideburns…the cool look of the day. If it had been earlier, he would have fit right in, for Pareos were what most of the guests wore throughout the day.  By eight p.m. however, all of the guests had gone to their rooms, showered, and had come back for dinner dressed quite elegantly – tropics elegant.

My job as a Hostess (a job my mother protested was “beneath” me,  being a UCLA Graduate), was to sell the beads with which one bartered at the club, whether at the bar, the gift shop or the beauty salon, cash was never allowed.

As he approached my “throne” I noticed that in addition to the cigarette case around his neck, he wore a very small gold Star of David, on a gold chain.  Suspecting he was from Mexico City I spoke to him in Spanish,  “Can I help you?”  I asked.

I had been right, he responded in that comfortable, familiar unmistakable Mexican Spanish and said “Sure, I’d like a pack of beads please.”  I had to fill in the pertinent information on our little invoices so I asked “Como te llamas?”, what’s your name?  He said “Isaac Schmidt”.  I printed his name, and expressing surprise, he said, “In Mexico, nobody spells my name right.”  He signed the invoice, took his packet of beads and turned to go.  Then he turned back and said, “Would you consider joining me for dinner tonight? When do you get off?”  I told him that I got off at nine and I could join him then.  He went to his room, showered and came back at nine, nicely dressed.  We walked upstairs to the dining room, and while we waited in line to be seated, I said to him, “I like your Star of David.”  Without a word he reached behind his neck, unclasped it, held it out to me, clasped it around my neck, and said “It’s yours.”  I protested, he quietly insisted. 

On September 3rd my cherished Isaac (Iche), and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary …He had me at that simple, quiet, determined and generous, “It’s yours.”

Father’s Day Special: Chicken Enchiladas And Things I Learned From My Dad

Click on the YouTube link to learn to make enchiladas and see my dad make his video debut.

Father’s Day is coming up and I can say without a doubt, that I was blessed with the greatest dad.  His nature has always been such, that I could never make him mad.   Even when I tried I couldn’t take the smile off his face.  I didn’t even succeed in making him mad in my teenage years… sad maybe, but not mad.  I have sweet memories of our big dining room table in Mexico City.  It was made of green mosaic and had an ebony frame.  My father would sit me on that table when I was little.  He’d smile and joyfully sing among other songs,  “Oh Susanna oh don’t you cry for me…”.  He was always smiling, whistling, singing or humming to Gershwin, Ella Fitzgerald, Sinatra, or the great Agustin Lara, and many more. He carried music within him the way he carried his newborn little girl…lovingly and tenderly.

Things My Dad Taught Me:

  •   To love, by the way he loves me.
  •   To be kind, by the way he is kind to all.
  •   To not take life so seriously, by his constant joy.
  •   To let things roll off my back, by his calm nature.
  •   To turn the other cheek, by teaching me that almost nothing is worth a fight.
  •   To try to get along and respect everyone, for that’s what he has always done.
  •   To love and appreciate music, it has been his life.
  •   To understand that everything in life is borrowed and impermanent.
  •   To  remember who I am if someone mischaracterizes me.
  •   To forgive and not hold a grudge, because both sides have a story.
  •   To maintain self-confidence and resilience when life is tough, it’s what he does.
  •   That getting old takes courage, he sets the example each day.

Importantly, in addition to being so loving, warm and wise, my dad loves to eat… I definitely inherited his love for food.  He was a New York born gringo, but living in Mexico City for fourteen years taught him that the world of food was so much bigger than steak and potatoes, or the chopped liver, herring, or matzoh ball soup from his hometown’s Delis.  He learned to love Mexican food, the spicier the better.   Still today, at the age of 94, he loves to accompany his lunch or dinner with a jalapeño pepper.  Among my dad’s favorite Mexican dishes are Chicken Enchiladas in Salsa Verde, So dad, this one’s for you:

Chicken Enchiladas in Salsa Verde

  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 skinless chicken breast halves on the bone
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves cut in half
  • 2  celery stalks cut in thirds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 -6 fresh corn tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  •  Optional garnish toppings are diced onion, chopped cilantro leaves, shredded lettuce or avocado pieces

Bring water to a boil,  add all of the ingredients and bring to a boil again.  Lower heat so that soup simmers for 30 minutes or until chicken is well cooked.  Remove the chicken, allow it to cool, remove the bone, finely shred the meat and set aside, while you prepare the salsa verde.

Salsa Verde

  • 6 tomatillo tomatoes
  • jalapeño peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 of a small onion
  • 1 extra garlic clove (optional)
  • 1 extra jalapeño pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp of salt

Place the tomatillos,  jalapeño peppers and 2 garlic cloves  in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for five minutes.  Add the 1/4 cup of water to a blender and then add the cooked ingredients from the saucepan.  Add the 1/4  small onion.  If you choose, add the extra garlic clove and if you like it very spicy, add the extra optional  jalapeño pepper.   Add the salt and Blend until you have a smooth rich sauce. Transfer the blended sauce to a  frying pan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and allow to simmer gently while you prepare the enchiladas.

Making the Enchiladas

All of the following steps are clearly demonstrated in the video above.  Click, follow along and have fun.  Heat the canola oil in a small frying pan.  When the oil is hot, place the tortillas one at a time in the oil turning them over immediately and then removing each one to a paper towel to absorb extra oil.  Once you have fried the 4 to 6 tortillas pat them with paper towel on top as well.  Take each tortilla and douse in the simmering salsa verde, removing each one right away to the plate on which you will serve the enchiladas.  Fill the tortilla with shredded chicken and gently fold over.  Top the enchiladas with onion, lettuce, avocado and/or fresh cilantro.  Serve with a side portion of white or Mexican Rice and Enjoy!

Chayote Summer Salad

If you are  ready to be adventurous and try something new and nutritious click on the link to see my latest recipe video!

There is a little known, pear-shaped, light green vegetable at the supermarket that is waiting just for you.  It is called Chayote or Mirliton squash.   Chayotes have a mild,  sweet taste and lend themselves well to summer salads which can accompany nearly any dish.  Their texture is somewhat like a cross between a potato and honeydew melon.  Chayote  is not as commonly used in the U.S. as it is in Mexico, where it is consumed as a staple vegetable.   Chayotes are low in  calories, high in dietary fiber, and contain anti-oxidants, minerals, and B-complex vitamins.  Being part of the gourd family like zucchini, chayotes provide a certain amount of potassium and vitamin-C.

Chayote summer Salad:

3 Chayote squash

1/3 cup red pimento diced

1/3 cup scallion stems diced

1/3 cup purple onion thinly sliced

1/3 cup cilantro leaves chopped

1-2 ripe but firm avocados cubed

Vinaigrette Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lime ( approx. 1/3 cup)

1 large garlic clove mashed

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Peel the chayotes with a regular peeler and cut into strips discarding the white seed in the center.  Bring three quarts of water to a boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and add the sliced chayotes to the water.  Bring to a boil, and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  Strain the chayotes, transfer them to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.  Once cool, add the other ingredients except the avocado, mix gently and again set aside to prepare the vinaigrette.  Combine  and thoroughly mix all of the vinaigrette ingredients.  I prepare it by placing the ingredients in a small plastic container, which I can then cover tightly and shake to mix thoroughly.  Add the avocado cubes to the salad, add the vinaigrette and mix well but gently.  Refrigerate for 30 – 60 minutes and you now have a thoroughly delicious and refreshing summer salad.

Enjoy!