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Monday, April 14, 2014

Passing on Passover

Now that we are empty nesters and no one is around, I have to admit that my enthusiasm for childless holidays is somewhat lackluster.  As a result, Ted and I have become very lazy when it comes to actually celebrating holidays.

This week starts Passover.  In past years, I would have spent the entire three days prior to the first seder cooking.  And then cooking some more.  I would have put together a lovely menu, incorporating not only the traditional foods of the holiday, but also some new twists on tradition.  I would have set a beautiful table.  I would have pulled out the good china and the crystal stemware.  Yup, I would have gone all out.

But things have changed.  I can finally admit that I really don't like matzo, and as such I am declaring my house a matzo free zone this Passover.  I don't eat much bread or bread products anyway, nor does Ted, so we'll just think of the next week as a low-carb holiday.  No need to run out to the store to purchase kosher for Passover substitutions for leavened foods.  We'll just do without.  No fuss, no muss.  When the holiday ends, there'll be no leftover matzo, potato starch, matzo cake meal, or Passover Gold noodles to chuck into the trash.

I'm feeling good about this.

For those of you who are observant, good for you.  I admire you for removing every last crumb of leavening from your house.  I admire you for cleaning your kitchen top to bottom so that it's kosher for Passover.  Most of all, I admire your creativity in finding recipes that make an unleavened cookie palatable.  I wish I wanted to do it.

But for now, I'm taking a year off from Passover.  This doesn't mean that I'm not going to observe the rules of the holiday.  It just means that I'm not going to buy $150 worth of kosher for Passover products that I don't think taste good.  I'll be creative within the confines of the holiday.  And I won't cheat.

There is however, one Passover food that, when done well, is sublime.  The coconut macaroon is a thing of beauty.  For years I made Ina Garten's coconut macaroons, and as far as I was concerned, they were the Passover Gold standard.  This year, I'm going rogue.  This recipe from Smitten Kitchen makes a coconut macaroon so delicious I might be tempted to make it at other times of the year too.

Recipe:  Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
(Smitten Kitchen)

Yield: About 4 dozen small cookies


4 ounces (115 grams or about 1/3 cup) unsweetened chocolate (sometimes sold as 99%), chopped small
14 ounces (400 grams) sweetened, flaked coconut
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (30 grams) cocoa powder
3 large egg whites
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaked sea salt or level 1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Heat oven to 325°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Heat approximately half of chocolate chunks in a small saucepan until just melted, then, off the heat, stir in the remaining chunks until they’re smooth. The residual heat should be enough to melt them and leave the mixture lukewarm; if it’s not, heat the mixture again until just melted, but not very hot.

In a food processor, blend the coconut for one full minute. Add sugar and cocoa powder, blend another full minute. Add egg whites, salt and vanilla and blend until combined, then the melted chocolate until smooth. With a tablespoon measure or cookie scoop (I used a #70 scoop), scoop batter into 1-inch mounds. You can arrange the cookies fairly close together as they don’t spread, just puff a bit.

Bake cookies for 15 minutes, until the macaroons are shiny and just set. Let them rest on the tray for 10 minutes after baking (or you can let them fully cool in place, if you’re not in a rush to use the tray again), as they’ll be hard to move right out of the oven. They’ll firm up as they cool, but still remain softer and less dry inside than traditional macaroons. Thank goodness.

Dust them with a little powdered sugar once they’re cool. They’ll keep in an airtight container for about one week.

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