BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘Passover

Irish Moss Blanc Mange and Panna Cotta with Agar-Agar: Vegan Seaweed Says Move Over, Gelatin!

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Coconut milk panna cotta, congealed with agar-agar instead of Knox gelatin. (From Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Cooking")

Coconut milk panna cotta, congealed with agar-agar instead of Knox gelatin. (From Heidi Swanson’s “Super Natural Cooking,” recipe ran with my Portland Press-Herald column here.)

As longtime readers of this blog will remember, luscious Italian panna cotta is one of my favorite desserts. I guess that reveals I’m not much of a baker, but I just love how unflavored gelatin coaxes this creamy dessert into an addictive, jiggly texture upon chilling. Still, years ago, when I posted my panna cotta recipe, a vegetarian friend had asked about a suitable non-animal substitute for gelatin that’s since haunted me. She wondered if pectin would work. I found a packet of seaweed-derived agar-agar at an Asian market about that time, but never used it. Its package indicated it would congeal juicy, sugary desserts just like gelatin.

Then I heard about a new (well actually very old-time) technique for congealing milk puddings at this revelatory, delicious seaweed cooking class I took through UMaine Extension in February. Several women in the class waxed nostalgic about how their Maine grandmothers gathered washed-up Irish moss seaweed on the coast to boil into the congealed dessert blancmange. Their enthusiasm inspired my latest The Farm-to-Table Family column for the Portland Press-Herald: “Who Needs Boxed Jell-O When Maine Seaweed Abounds?” (Heidi Swanson’s coconut milk panna cotta recipe is excerpted there.) In that article, I promised to give readers an Irish moss blanc-mange recipe on my blog. Here it is below the picture:

Red algae Irish moss seaweed is boiled with milk in lieu of animal gelatin to make the old-fashioned pudding, blanc mange. It thrives on the Maine coast and is the source of the ubiquitous food additive carrageenan, long extracted here at a plant in Rockland.

Red algae Irish moss seaweed is boiled with milk in lieu of animal gelatin to make the old-fashioned pudding, blanc mange. It thrives on the Maine coast and is the source of the ubiquitous food additive carrageenan, long extracted here at a plant in Rockland. (Image from Wikipedia)

Irish Moss Blanc-Mange Dessert Pudding

     This recipe come from Prannie Rhatigan’s esteemed “Irish Seaweed Kitchen” cookbook. Maine seaweed harvester Kelly Roth of VitaminSea in Buxton told me, “It’s pretty much our bible,” with wide-ranging recipes for incorporating seaweed into quotidian cuisine, from mashed potatoes to pot roast. Rhatigan’s recipe comes from the “hallowed kitchens” of the Ballymaloe House in County Cork, Ireland. Hence the the metric system measurements. You can order dried Maine Irish moss from the websites of local harvesters Maine Coast Sea Vegetables out of Franklin, or VitaminSea from Buxton.

Serves 6

3.5 to 4.5 grams Irish (carrageen) moss, depending on variety (Kelly Roth recommends using the dried seaweed, soaked in fresh water to remove ocean salt)

1 1/2 pints (850ml) milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean pod

1 1/2 ounce (50g) sugar

1 egg, separated

1. Soak the carrageen (Irish moss) in cold water for 10 minutes, then remove and put in saucepan with milk and a vanilla pod, if using.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 15 minutes, semi-covered, taking care that it does not boil over.

3. The carrageen (Irish moss) will now be swollen and exuding jelly.

4. Pour through a strainer into a mixing bowl.

5. Rub the jelly through a strainer and beat it into the milk with the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla essence, if using.

6. Whisky egg white stiffly and fold it gently into the mixture; it will rise to make a fluffy top. Transfer to serving bowl.

7. Serve chilled with a fruit compote (strawberry-rhubarb would be ideal when the season comes late this spring), or a sweet sauce. I served the above coconut milk panna cotta with my Maine wild blueberry-maple syrup preserves.

Found at health food stores and Asian markets, seaweed-derived agar-agar is a good vegan substitute for gelatin.

Found at health food stores and Asian markets, seaweed-derived agar-agar is a good vegan substitute for gelatin.

Heidi Swanson’s Coconut Milk Panna Cotta congeals with seaweed-dervived (from a red algae source similar to Irish moss) agar-agar that I found at my local natural foods store. Use this if you don’t have access to Irish moss. Japanese native, Hiroko Meserve, a mom here in Brunswick, told me she uses agar-agar (called kanten in Japanese) to gel fresh grapefruit juice desserts and also to make the popular Japanese red bean paste sweet, yokan. Agar-agar also gels the popular Chinese almond milk (technically made with apricot kernel, traditionally) pudding know as annin tofu. It masquerades as tofu, when cut into white cubes before serving.


We all know kids love the color and taste of Jell-O. It’s inspiring to discover they love seaweed just as much, and desserts congealed with agar-agar instead of gelatin. I found this out when I went into my son’s preschool last week to read this “Aquaculture for ME” book put out by the Maine Agriculture in the Classroom program. Theo is now obsessed with this book and requests it most nights at bedtime. This program is funded by those Maine agriculture license plates we are proud to sport on our Subaru–get yours today!

I brought the preschoolers a snack of blueberry-kelp smoothies (made with dried Maine kelp I soaked and rinsed of salt) and 100 percent fruit juice vegan Jell-O, thickened with only agar-agar (follow the easy instructions on the package). They particularly gobbled the later up.

100 percent fruit juice "Jell-O," congealed with seaweed-derived agar-agar. The kids loved it!

100 percent fruit juice “Jell-O,” congealed with seaweed-derived agar-agar. The kids loved it!

Gefilte Fish “Muffins”

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The gefilte patties, poached in tangy court bouillon.

The perfectly-formed patties, pre-poach.










We finally hosted our first (and last) seders in Oregon…next year in Jerusalem (I mean Maine). I never did learn to make gefilte fish from Dan’s Bubbe, who passed away when we were back East in January. I only grew up with the Manischevitz-jarred version, which my father relished doused with horseradish and chased with a tall glass of V8. (Note: this year, I concluded the all-natural Yehuda brand is superior to Manischevitz, which, gasp!, apparently contains MSG).

I never grew up with homemade gefilte fish. And after making it from scratch again this year, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort for the most (unfairly) reviled Passover food. This year, I poached homemade gefilte, in a tart court bouillon. The Pacific Northwest patties were made from salmon and haddock/cod (which I substituted for halibut). Perhaps I should have sprang for fresh Chinook over the frozen standard wild Alaskan Coho I got at Trader Joe’s. Somehow salmon doesn’t taste quite right in gefilte to my palate. But it looked pretty in the perfectly-shaped pink patties this year. The haddock/cod (or halibut) flavor is undetectable in the presence of salmon.

Poaching didn’t add enough over the bake-in-muffin tins short-cut I’ve taken the past two years. If you want an easy way to prepare your own gefilte, this is one way to go. You could try any combination of fish in the following recipe. I would also keep the addition of lemon zest, chopped fennel frond and matzo meal (I thought all gefilte fish was made with matzo meal) from Jenn Louis’s recipe.

Salmon Gefilte Fish from Judy Bart Kancigor’s Cooking Jewish (adapted from Marlene Sorosky)

Vegetable cooking spray

2 medium-size onions, cut into  1-inch pieces

5 medium-size carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup curly-leaf parsley leaves

3 pounds skinless salmon, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 large eggs

½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup sugar, or to taste

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to  taste

2 teaspoons freshly ground  black pepper, or to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 24 standard muffin cups. (I don’t grease the pop-out silicone ones I use).

2. Place the onions in a food processor and pulse until they are minced. Transfer the onions to a very large bowl.

3. Process the carrots, celery, and parsley until ground. Add to the onions.

4. Process about two-thirds of the salmon, adding 1 piece at a time through the feed tube, until ground. Add the processed salmon to the onion mixture.

5. Process the remaining salmon, adding it through the feed tube. Then add the eggs, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper and process until well blended. Add this mixture to the onion-salmon mixture and combine well.

6. Divide the salmon mixture evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake until the top feels set when touched, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the fish cool in the muffin cups, then unmold and place on a bed or greens surrounded with thinly sliced cucumber, a few grape tomatoes, and horseradish. (If the “muffins” are prepared ahead, remove them from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.)


Written by baltimoregon

April 16, 2012 at 12:27 am

Chicken Feet

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It's so carnal to chop the claws off the parboiled human-like feet. And use a paring knife to cut off the black claw pads.

Leg of lamb apparently isn’t kosher. I learned so much while bragging to my husband’s grandmother that I was making her grandson lamb for a seder. I thought the whole lamb was fair game for Passover. Apparently, the leg is too close to the hoof. But chicken feet are sound? I’ll never understand that logic. Don’t even get me started on the prohibitions against bugs on organic produce.

I wanted to make from-scratch chicken stock for matzo ball soup, so what better time to finally try making stock from chicken feet. I turned to a local source of pastured poultry, Afton Field Farm. They only had one bag of the feet left from last year’s processing. Restaurants buy them up for chicken broth. Unfortunately, the feet were freezer-burned because their claws ripped through their plastic bag. That’s why they’re hard to store. I’ll have to go back for fresh ones when chicken slaughtering begins end of May.Prepping the feet is a bit of a potschke. You must par-boil them, chop off the claws at the joint and, with a paring knife, remove any blackish remaining claw pad. The process gets you in touch with your carnivorous–almost cannibal-like–side, given that peeled chicken feet somehow resemble human hands.

But the collagen-rich broth was delicious and as gelatinous as Jello when refrigerated (is that Manischevitz suspends its jarred gefilte in?). I diluted it with peppery chicken-back stock so nothing tasted out of the ordinary. Chicken backs are another great cheap source of stock.

Simmer the prepared feet for several hours.

Strain the stock, and snack on the feet if that's your pleasure. Apparently, babies like them.










The chicken feet stock reminded me so much of wonton soup broth. I had always thought that broth got its richness from  the pork wontons. But now I know it must be from the chicken feet many Chinese restaurants use for broth. If you are eating chicken feet stock out already at restaurants, shouldn’t you try this frugal culinary secret at home? The process does infuse one’s kitchen, hands and clothes with chicken essence, as if you’d doused yourself with chicken oil. Just how braised a ham hock makes one feel you’re sweating pork. It’s all about becoming one with your food.

See, Mikey likes it.

Written by baltimoregon

April 10, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Israeli Seder and D.I.Y. Salmon Gefilte Fish

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Seder salad plate: Israeli pickles, cucumber salad, Sephardic date charoset and celery for the karpas.

Salmon gefilte fish: I might still prefer Manischevitz.

We’ve had more seder invites than ever before here in Oregon. I guess Jews really come out of the woodwork in a small college town. Tonight we got to experience our first Israeli-style one. It was just our vibe, with only some cursory readings from the haggadah and more emphasis on the food. The presence of two toddlers throwing food around the table also added levity.

For some reason, I decided to make the gefilte fish. I had heard about a version made with salmon that is popular here in the Pacific Northwest. Wrestling the carp in the bathtub and boiling fish heads and bones into stock this is not. No, in fact my recipe simply called for grinding up fresh salmon with onions, carrots, parsley and eggs in the food processor. Then you bake the mixture in muffin cups until set. I got the recipe from the Cooking Jewish book I reviewed for The Sun. But I’m still curious about the method where you slowly boil the balls in homemade fish stock. That’s how Dan’s Bubbe, the self-proclaimed ace of gefilte fish, did it. Be sure to have your fish man grind the fish for you in advance, she stressed. I hope I get the chance to make it with her sometime.

Potato-matzo rolls.

Hummus the way it should be made.

There were unusual treats at this seder table, like potato-matzo meal rolls (anything resembling bread is such a luxury), a smooth, apple-less date paste for the charoset (makes sense since apples aren’t native to region) and plates of creamy whipped hummus. The secret to good Arab/Israeli hummus seems to be the quality of the tahini or tehina (ground sesame paste) which they bring from back home. Ours seems to be thicker and clumpier here. There was no secret ingredient but the hummus was seasoned with paprika, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and olive oil. And garnished with a drizzle of oil and the whole chickpeas. The Israelis were talking of some fabled cook’s top-secret hummus recipe, perhaps that of Abu Hassan’s in Jaffa? Food preferences unite Israelis and Arabs. If only breaking more bread together could somehow lead to peace. But politics was mostly off the table tonight. In fact, the group tonight was surprised that the Corvallis rabbi would hold forth on Israel/Mid-East politics during a Yom Kippur service. But it’s so second nature for us to mix up politics, religion, etc. here.

The best thing I made was the beet red horseradish, the sweet root vegetable softening the bitter herb’s bite. Dan and I screamed and cried from the fumes that filled the kitchen as I ground up that bitter root last night. Luckily, there’s plenty more in the freezer. The ruby condiment also nicely contrasted with the pasty fish logs.

For dessert, we had a lovely flourless chocolate torte. And I indulged in the Matzo Brittle crack recipe. If you like Fleur de Sel caramels, you’ll love this. Now just one more foodie-focused seder to go, Friday. Next year at our house? We need to step up to the plate.

Written by baltimoregon

March 30, 2010 at 12:43 am

Passover in Oregon

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This Year at the White House/Obama's Seder (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

This Year at the White House/Obama's Seder (Official White House photo by Pete Souza), which just happened to be organized by Carolyn's Harvard classmate.

President Obama hosted his history-making Passover seder at the White House, and we were invited to two here in Oregon, that most secular of states where there are more Buddhists than Jews (but lots of Jew-Bus).

Homemade rye matzo

Homemade rye matzo

The first invite came at a matzo-making party I attended with my chef friend Intaba. She’s teaching me to make all the Jewish breads. It’s really a wonder more folks don’t make their own matzo instead of subsisting on the Manischewitz boxed-stuff. You just mix two cups of flour to one cup of water, don’t let it sit more than 18 minutes and then bake at 400 degrees. But I realize, who has time to make matzo when preparing the other dishes for the seder feast?

For our first seder, I prepared an unusually savory carrot and sweet potato tzimmes, accented with fresh thyme and chopped green onions. I’d make this side dish year round. That the veggies are roasted with lots of butter doesn’t hurt. I also made a Sephardic version of charoset, blending dried figs, dates, apricots and raisins together with the traditional apples and walnuts. It got rave reviews and the fruity paste spread nicely on matzo.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Tzimmes

Carrot and Sweet Potato Tzimmes

Fruity charoset

Fruity charoset

We’re constantly impressed by the kindness of practical strangers, and neighbors, here. We had only met the host of the Wednesday night seder once, and there we were comfortably reclining around her table until 11 p.m.

But our Friday night hosts, Slow Food Corvallis president Ann Shriver and her husband Larry Lev, both of OSU’s agricultural econ department, we met back during our first weekend in Corvallis. I made the matzo ball soup for that meal. Let’s just say the balls were a tad rubbery and marked with my fingerprints, rather than in perfect spheres. Still tasted good though. Ann prepared a feast: Moroccan chicken tagine (see recipe below), purple cauliflower and potato puree, grilled asparagus and Greek salad. Larry’s simple Ashkenazi-style charoset was sweet and delicate: peeled and grated apples, chopped walnuts and pecans, a bit of grated lemon peel and dashes of wine, cinnamon and sugar. Ann indulged us with a cheese course (featuring a prize-winning hard Tumalo goat cheese from Bend) and a delicate ginger-dark chocolate mousse served, with a fresh whipped cream cap, in demitasse cups. It was an informal, secular, social justice-minded seder. We didn’t even go back to the haggagah after the meal. Very reminiscient of the McCandlish-Friedberg seders growing up. I was right at home! Next year in Corvallis, right?

Moroccan chicken

Moroccan chicken

Chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Olives (from Ann Shriver)

Here’s the recipe I promised you. It’s not difficult but does require a lot of time and planning. Believe it or not it comes from an ancient “Food and Wine” magazine that someone gave me about 23 years ago. The article is by Paula Wolfert who is a pretty well known chef of Moroccan food.
First you need to make the lemons, at least 7 days in advance (14 is even better.)
I use the regular thick skinned lemons. I wonder how it would be with Meyer lemons? Anyone have experience with those?
7 day preserved lemon
2 ripe lemons
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Olive oil
Scrub the lemons and dry well. Cut each into 8 wedges. Toss with the salt and place in a 1/2 pint glass jar with a plastic-coated lid. Pour in the lemon juice. Close tightly and let ripen in a warm place for (at least) 7 days, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. To store, add olive oil to cover and refrigerate for up to 6 months.
Marinated chicken with lemons and olives (Tagine Meshmel)
1/4 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
3/8 tsp ground cumin
pinch of powdered saffron (I used a pinch in the marinade and another good pinch in the stew, and I used whole, not powdered.)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 cinnamon stick (I used a couple of shakes of ground cinnamon instead)
pieces of chicken–thighs and breasts, but I cut the split breasts further into two pieces (I used 5 split breasts and 6 thighs, and removed the skins to make the dish less greasy.)
2 1/2 c. grated spanish onions (~2 large)
1/4 c chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 1/2 c. green greek-style cracked olives (I used a mix of green and black ones from the co-op, and I didn’t bother pitting them)
16 wedges of preserved lemon, pulp removed, peel rinsed, and sliced thinly
1/4 to 1/3 c fresh lemon juice, to taste.
1. In a large bowl combine the ingredients up to and including cinnamon, plus 1/4 c water. Roll the pieces of chicken in the mixture, cover and refrigerate overnight in the fridge, or for an hour at room temperature. (The recipe calls for using the chicken livers. I did not do this. I think it would make the dish taste quite different.)
2.  The next day put the chickens, livers, and marinade into a large pot. Add 1/2 c of the grated onion, the parsley , coriander and 2 c water. (I also added a good pinch of saffron to the broth.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
3. (If using), remove the livers from the pot and mash them to a paste and reserve. Add remaining 2 c grated onion. Continue to cook, partially covered, for another 1/2 hour or so, until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Cover with foil and keep warm.
4. Add the olives, preserved lemon (and reserved liver paste, if using) to the sauce. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes. If you haven’t removed the chicken skins, you may need to skim off the fat at this point. Add the lemon juice (and salt to taste–but I didn’t add any as I found it quite salty enough.), pour over the chicken, and serve (I actually let it sit in the sauce for an hour or so covered with foil in a warm oven, before we ate it.)

Written by baltimoregon

April 13, 2009 at 1:43 am

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