matzoh brei

not kosher, but tasty

I first heard of matzoh brei a few years ago, while reading something by Ruth Reichl – I don’t remember what it was any more, but it made an impression on me. A sort of Jewish French toast, a simple mixture of matzoh and egg, fried in butter and topped with syrup, it sounded just like something I would like – but I had never had it or seen it anywhere. My husband, who grew up eating vast quantities of matzoh, didn’t remember ever having it either. And for some reason we never seem to have matzoh on hand.

Then last week I saw the Passover clearance display at the co-op and, on the spur of the moment, decided to grab a cheap box of matzoh. We ate half of it straight with Saint Nectaire cheese (yum), but set aside several pieces for a weekend breakfast. I went looking for recipes and actually had some trouble finding any – none of my Jewish cookbooks included it, but I did find a version in a book called The Good Egg, so I used that – although I upped the egg quantity so there would be a one-to-one egg/matzoh ratio.

Later, I checked online and found Ruth Reichl’s version here. It’s just a bit different from the one I used – in hers you run water over broken matzohs, then scramble them with the egg in the pan, whereas in mine you soak the entire matzoh and then break it up, then fry as a solid cake. When Jon asked his mother, it turned out that she did used to make this occasionally, but her version apparently involves milk. Obviously there’s a certain amount of permitted variation. I think it would also be good as a savory, with herbs and hot sauce. We may need to experiment further.

If you grew up with matzoh brei, how did your family make it?

soggy matzoh

Matzoh Brei

Adapted from The Good Egg by Marie Simmons. Serves two.

  • 3 sheets matzoh
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Place the matzoh in a pan, pour cold water over to cover and let sit 5 minutes. Lift the matzoh out and lay on a clean towel to drain, then carefully transfer to a mixing bowl and break it up loosely. Beat together the eggs and salt and pour them over the matzoh. Stir together.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium low heat, melt the butter. When it bubbles, scrape in the matzoh and egg and flatten into a pancake. Allow to cook several minutes, until the bottom becomes golden and a bit crusty. Break the pancake into sections with a spatula and flip the sections. When cooked on the second side, put the pieces on plates and top with maple syrup.

If you’re not worried about keeping kosher, I recommend pork sausage with this. Or bacon.

mixing matzoh brei

matzoh brei


best latkes ever


I know everyone and their mother probably has a recipe for potato pancakes, but I recently discovered a new method for making them and it’s SO GOOD. And since Hanukkah, that celebration of fried food, begins tomorrow, it seemed like a fine time to mention it.

onion & taters

The secret is onion – quite a lot of onion, too. Really, it makes a huge difference! Mitchell Davis, author of the very useful book Kitchen Sense, attributes the technique to his mother, and I was amazed the first time I tried it. You grate the onion alternately with the potato so its juices coat the potato shreds and keep them from browning. Then it all gets mixed together with egg and matzo meal and fried slowly, producing a savory pancake with a perfectly crunchy outside and a soft sweet interior. I’ve made them two or three times now, and they are the very best latkes I’ve ever eaten. A little horseradish creme fraiche doesn’t hurt, either.

And by the way, today marks the end of another National Blog Posting Month – I made it all 30 days! Daily posting is not likely to continue, but we’ll see where inspiration leads me. As always, thanks for reading!

Recipe after the jump…

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Challah, version 1



Having recently rediscovered the joys of challah, I’ve decided that one of my missions for the next year is to find my favorite challah recipe. I’ve only tasted a few so far, so I’m not sure what my ideal is yet. There’s really only one way to find out, especially since there isn’t a single Jewish bakery in our vicinity. Time to get baking!


For my first attempt, I picked a recipe out of my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, partly because it made just one loaf – a much more manageable amount than some, especially considering that challah does not keep. Another time I’ll try Jon’s aunt’s recipe, but I’ll need to either scale it down or be prepared to feed an army. It makes a lot.

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When it comes to festive breakfasts, it’s hard to beat a blintz. A soft white crepe wrapped around a cheesy filling, fried golden and drizzled with syrup…I’m making myself hungry just writing about it. Blintzes were one of the foods my husband wooed me with (along with breakfast burritos, chocolate pudding and curry (no, not all at once)) and I’d say they worked quite well.

making blintzes

making blintzes

making blintzes

There are a lot of directions you can go with blintzes. Sometimes we put fruit in, or you could make a different flavor of crepe to wrap around (buckwheat, perhaps?), but they’re really great made plain, so everyone can put whatever topping on they want. You could even do them savory: mushrooms seem like an obvious thing to try.

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Unlike my husband, I did not grow up with kugel. I may have heard of it, but I can’t even swear to that. I finally tasted it at a gathering in Kansas City sometime after I married into the family, but wasn’t quite sure what I thought. For him, though, it’s a major flavor from his childhood – one of those atavistic pleasures.

For those not in the know, a kugel is a traditional Jewish dish. Baked casserole-style, it’s a carb- and fat-bomb usually made from egg noodles, cottage cheese, butter and sugar, with any number of additional ingredients, including but certainly not limited to: sultanas, cherry pie filling, apple pie filling, corn flakes, apricots, nuts, carrots, pineapple…you name it. Despite being quite sweet in most of its incarnations, it’s often served as a side dish with meat. The sweet-savory blend is reminiscent of old Middle Ages recipes, and it’s surprisingly addictive.

egg noodles

I recently made kugel myself for the very first time, and the first thing I did was consult the family recipe books. Jon’s mother used to make kugel, but we didn’t have her recipe. We did have Jon’s grandmother’s recipe, which inexplicably leaves out the noodles (her brisket recipe leaves out the brisket, so go figure). There was also a “chiffon” kugel recipe that used beaten egg whites to lighten the custard. In the end, I committed familial heresy and used a recipe from the food blog Smitten Kitchen. I did, however, cut it in half to avoid eating kugel for a solid month. And I left out any and all fruit that might have tried to creep in.

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I’ll admit, I was a bit grumpy. I was coming down with my husband’s cold, and it gets dark so early these days, I didn’t feel like cooking, and yada yada whine whine. But I had already made the dough for rugelach, during the afternoon when it was still sunny and I had motivation. I felt far too guilty not to follow through, despite my pissy mood, so I went ahead and finished them. And what do you know…they were great! I was much cheered up. (I was also cheered by the extremely gooey cauliflower-cheese pasta that we decided to make for dinner at the last second, but you don’t want to hear about that, do you? We’re talking about cookies here.)


This was the first time I’d ever made rugelach, and I’m very pleased to report that they were quite easy, as well as tasty. They’re a very grown-up cookie, hardly sweet at all, with a lovely chewy-crumbly texture. I had studied recipes from both Dorie Greenspan and Cook’s Illustrated, and I went with Dorie’s because it seemed to make a much more reasonable amount. Plus, she observes that, when making rugelach, you practically have to deviate from the written recipe to put your own stamp on it – that’s my kind of cookbook writer. I made mine with apricot jam, dried cranberries and pecans, but you could just as well use raspberry jam and chocolate chips, or marmalade and walnuts, or rhubarb jam and almonds…hmmm, maybe I should make another batch. Continue reading

Matzoh ball soup with celery root

celery root

We got our first celery root (also called celeriac) of the season at Dunbar Gardens last week! Possibly the ugliest and least edible looking vegetable around, but it has a beautiful, delicate celery flavor. I love what it does for chicken soup, especially matzoh ball soup.

I didn’t have matzoh growing up – I don’t think I even saw it until I went to a seder in California when I was 21 (yes, I was the youngest person there – I got to read the questions!) So I don’t have many preconceived notions of what matzoh ball soup should be like – I know it’s traditionally just carrots, chicken stock and matzoh balls, but I like my soup to have a little more oomph. So I generally put chicken meat in, and usually celery root for flavor and peas or spinach for color. For the balls, I just follow the recipe on the box – matzoh meal, eggs, oil, seltzer and salt, mix with a fork, leave in the fridge for an hour while you get the soup going. No big secret family recipe. Unless my family wants to give me one, of course…

prepping celery root

Note about cutting up celery root: it’s so knobbly and hairy that it doesn’t pay to be overly careful. I just whack the edges off so it becomes a sort of cube, then dice from there. Continue reading