Kasha Varnishkes with fresh herbs, mushrooms and peas

???????????????????????????????Kasha Varnishkes is a traditional Russian-Jewish dish of kasha and farfelle (buckwheat groats and bow tie pasta). I dressed up my mom’s recipe with fresh herbs, mushrooms and freshly shelled peas.

toasting kasha

toasting kasha

Did you know that buckwheat is gluten-free because it is a fruit? Kasha is the roasted buckwheat seed (groat). Buckwheat has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure, and cholesterol, is low-glycemic, and is a good source of protein and magnesium.

Did you know that even though farfelle is called bow tie pasta, it is named for farfella, which means butterfly in Italian!


1 large pot of salted water

8 oz farfelle (bow-tie pasta)

1 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)

1 egg

1 Tb olive oil

1 small onion

1 ½ cups mushroom

1 tsp minced rosemary

¼ tsp minced thyme

¼ tsp dill weed

2 1/4 cups Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version. If you want to use prepared broth, salt the kasha to taste.

½ – 1 tsp salt to taste, depending on saltiness of the broth.

A few shakes or grinds of black pepper

1 bay leaf

1 tsp lemon juice

2 cups shelled English peas (you can substitute frozen peas)

1 Tb chopped Italian parsley


Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling

Heat broth to boiling in a heavy, medium saucepan.

While you are heating the liquids, prepare the kasha:

Sauté onion in olive oil over low heat about 10 minutes until soft,

While the onion is cooking, mix kasha with a beaten egg in a bowl until the kasha is coated. Toast kasha in a dry non-stick frying pan, stirring with a wooden spoon until the grains separate.

???????????????????????????????Add mushrooms to onions, cover and cook another 3 minutes until mushrooms begin to soften. Stir in herbs and cook another minute, then add the toasted kasha.

Pour hot broth into kasha mixture. Add bay leaf, lemon juice and pepper.  Salt it to taste. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 12 minutes until most liquid is absorbed. Stir in fresh peas in the last 7 minutes. If you choose to use frozen peas, stir them in at the last 4 minutes.

While kasha is cooking, cook pasta for 10 minutes in salted water. Drain and Stir into cooked kasha. Extra broth from the kasha will act as gravy. Garnish with chopped parsley.

kneydlekh קניידלעך Matzo Ball Soup

I make Matzo balls, what my mom calls kneydlekh קניידלעך in Yiddish ki -NAY- dl-ekh (make the last sound (ekh) by clearing your throat), for special occasions like Passover and Rosh Hashanah, or just to help the heal a bad cold. Serve them in Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup

Are you wondering if adding baking powder is kosher for Passover? All I can say is that the Manischewitz matzo ball mix which is kosher for Passover contains sodium bicarbonate and monocalcium phosphate which are the active ingredients of baking powder. So if they can make their matzo balls light and fluffy with that, so can I!

Makes about 15 medium matzo balls (1/4 recipe in parentheses)
4 (1) large eggs
2 (1/2) tsp schmalz (rendered chicken fat). Use the fat that rises to the top of the soup
(vegetarian version: use 1/4 cup (1 Tb) oil only)
3 Tb (2 1/4 tsp) canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp (1/4 tsp) garlic infused olive oil
1 (1/4) cup matzo meal
2 (1/2) tsp salt
1/4 tsp (a shake) white pepper
1 tsp (1/4 tsp) baking powder
1 Tb (3/4 tsp) minced parsley leaves
1/2 tsp (1/8 tsp) dried or 1 Tb (3/4 tsp) fresh minced dill weed
1 TB (3/4 tsp) schmaltz added to boiling water
1/4 cup (1 Tb) soup added to boiling water

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl with schmalz and oil.

Mix herbs, matzo meal, baking soda, salt and pepper in a separate bowl. Gently fold into the egg mixture.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for 40 minutes

While dough is resting in the fridge, boil a large pot of water (at least a gallon). Add a tablespoonful (3/4 tsp) of schmalz (unless you’re making vegetarian ones) and 1/4 cup (1 Tb) soup. This will give the kneydlekh more flavor. If you have plenty of soup, you can just boil the kneydlekh in the soup.

Wet your hands and roll  about 12 (4) golf-ball sized matzo balls. Put them on a plate

Drop them in the boiling water. Cover pot tightly and lower heat to simmer. Cook for 40 minutes. Balls will double in size and should be soft. If you are going to store them for later, place them in a container with just enough broth to cover.

You can sprinkle more dill and parsley on the soup when serving.

Matzo Meal Chicken

This was one of my favorite dishes my mom made when I was a kid. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t tweak it! I added sesame seeds to the matzo meal and used olive oil spray instead of drizzling margarine on the chicken as she did. This recipe calls for boneless, skinless breasts, but you can make it with a cut-up  chicken as my mom did. It will just take longer to cook.

Preheat oven to 375◦

Serves 6


2 eggs

2/3 cup of matzo meal

1/4 cup plus a few spoonfuls sesame seeds

1 Tablespoon garlic salt

several grinds pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Olive oil spray

Combine dry ingredients in a shallow bowl

Beat the eggs well in a small bowl

Line a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) with foil. Place a rectangular rack (such as a cookie cooling rack) in it (it should just fit). Spray it with nonstick spray.

Rinse the chicken breasts and trim any excess fat.

Dip each breast in the egg

and then roll it in the matzo meal-sesame mixture until it is well coated.

(You may have to wash your hands a few times in between chicken pieces; this gets messy!)

Spray one side with olive oil spray, and then place that side down on the oiled rack. Spray the other side with the olive oil spray. Repeat for all breasts, spacing them so there is some room between them.

Bake in the oven until browned, about 1/2 an hour, then flip over. Sprinkle a few spoonfuls of sesame seeds on top if some of the coating has fallen off, and bake until the other side is browned.

Hanukkah Latkes (potato pancakes)

On Hanukkah, Jews light a menorah for 8 nights and eat foods fried in oil to celebrate the miracle of the oil in the holy lamp lasting for 8 days. Some eat doughnuts, but I prefer latkes, fried potato pancakes. This is my mother’s recipe, but I added the onion on my friend Vivian’s suggestion.

Serves 4

4 cups raw grated Russet potatoes. Use 4 large or 5 medium

1 onion, grated

4 large eggs

2 Tb matzo meal

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups canola oil per frying pan

Peel potatoes and soak in water until ready to grate. Grate by hand or in a food processor. Place in a colander so that potatoes can drain their water, until rest of ingredients are mixed and oil is hot. Wrap the grated potatoes and onions in 3 layers of cheesecloth and tie the corners around a wooden spoon. Twist the bundle tightly to release the moisture.

Beat eggs well and add matzo meal and salt. Add drained potatoes and onions and stir well. You can add the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl of drained potato water.

Pour oil into a heavy frying pan, such as cast iron and put on medium high heat until it reaches 375′ (Keep oil between 365′ and 375′ during the frying process.)

Using a large slotted serving spoon and a large solid serving spoon, mold a spoonful of batter on the slotted spoon, squeezing down with the solid spoon. You will need to squeeze more water out of the potatoes toward the end of the frying. Gently place the latke in the hot oil.

Fry until golden brown, then flip over using the slotted spoon. Don’t crowd the pan, usually 3 or 4  latkes are good for a 9” pan. When latkes are golden brown on both sides, lift each one with the slotted spoon and let the oil drain back into the pan.

Place them on a rack over a cookie sheet. Put the rack in a low oven, about 275’. This will help the oil drain from the latkes and keep them warm and crispy until all the latkes are ready to serve.

Serve with applesauce. (Some people eat them with sour cream, but not in our family.)

Happy Hanukkah!

My Grandma Bessie’s Challah

challah braided in circle

“My dear Rozze, I am giving you the Reisepy of the Hollow, first Learn to make a hole from one Pound of flower put the flower in a bowl make a Hole in the Middle of the Bowl with the flower. Buy a Packge of try Yeast youes only helf of the Yeast. Put the Yeast in quarter of glass of look warm watter”

So began the handwritten recipe my Grandma Bessie sent me almost 50 years ago for her Challah (pronounced HAlee, making the H like you are clearing your throat.) I was always enchanted by her invented spelling. Grandma did not have much formal schooling and she did not use measuring cups, only glasses of various sizes. I remember getting a kick out of the addition of “a little glass of schnapps” (Yiddish for strong liquor, whiskey or vodka) and of putting a pillow on the dish towel.  I think the pillow was to insulate the dough from the coldness of the room. Although she doesn’t mention braiding the Challah in the recipe, I remember her teaching me to braid it, which was my favorite part.

My Grandma Bessie was a sweet, warm and nurturing, buxom woman with a heart of gold. She was the motherly center of her large extended family and her home was always open for visitors from the old country. I only saw her sporadically, since she lived across the country in Brooklyn. When I was about eight years old, she came to visit us and taught us how to make her special challah. I imagine she may have learned it from her mother in her native Romania, or perhaps after she immigrated to New York at the tender age of nine. Grandma enjoyed her challah the old country way, not with butter or jam, but smeared with schmaltz (rendered chicken fat).

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it’s traditional to eat a round challah to signify the cycle of the year and the crown of Adonai (G-d).


To symbolize a sweet New Year, we dip the challah in honey as well as dip apples in honey.

I wish you a sweet New Year filled with peace. I am blessed to share this treasured recipe with you.

Here is my adaptation based on measuring cups. I put in a whole package of yeast to make it rise nicely. I think Grandma only used half out of thrift. I proof (activate) the yeast with 1 tsp sugar so that it will foam in the lukewarm water. (Use active dry yeast, not instant.) I used eggs at room temperature (or warmed in a bowlful of warm water) so that the dough will stay warm and added 2 egg yolks to them. I used olive oil and found the bread stayed moist longer. I substituted 1/3 cup of warm milk for the water added to the dough. I also oiled the  bowl instead of flouring it when I set it to rise, for easy removal.  But I do use the pillow over the dishtowel for the first rising!

Put in 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) of bread flour and 1 tsp salt in a large bowl. Mix well and make a hole in the middle of the flour.

Dissolve 1 package of dry yeast in  ¼ cup lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Let it proof for a few minutes until foamy.

yeast proof

Pour dissolved yeast into the hole in the flour.

mix it together with some flour, cover with a dishtowel, and let it rise for 15 minutes.

After in rises up a little, put in 2 eggs beaten together with 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 Tb sugar, 2 Tb honey and 2 Tb whiskey or vodka.

Wash your hands, then mix the dough then pour 1/3 cup lukewarm milk into the dough and mix well with your hands.

Oil a large board then put the dough on and knead it with both hands for several minutes until it feels bouncy. It should be a round piece.

After that, oil the bowl and put the dough in.

and cover it with a clean dish towel. Put a pillow on top of the dish towel. Let it rise for 3 hours.

Coat a pan with oil, not too much oil. Make a design of small rolls by putting a roll in the middle and surround it by other rolls that will join the middle one when they rise.

If you wish to braid the challah instead,divide the dough into 3 pieces. .

Then roll them into logs

then braid them together

For Rosh Hashanah,  connect the two ends of the braid to make a circle.

For more challah braiding ideas, see this amazing Israeli video:

Let it rise for 45 minutes. Then it is ready to bake.

You take one egg, put a little sugar in the egg and mix it well. Take a baking brush and brush the egg all over the challah. I like to sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top.

Bake at 350’ for 30-40 minutes. (If it’s brown in 30 minutes, take it out.)

Challah with poppy seeds

I hope it will come out good.

Slice it for French toast the next day!


For a look at her original handwritten recipe click on this link: grandma bessie challah recipe

Here is a transcription of Grandma’s recipe as she wrote it:

My dear Rozze,

I am giving you the Reisepy of the Hollow, first Learn to make a hole from one Pound of flower put the flower in a bowl make a Hole in the Middle of the Bowl with the flower. Bly a Pciekge of try Yeast youes only helf of the Yeast. Put the Yeast in quarter of glass of look warm watter dosolve it good, let it stay for 10 minutes in the glass then Put it in the Hole in the Bowel of Flour mix it together with some flower let it stay in for 15 minutes it should Rize remember in the middle of the Bowel after it Rizes up a little you first put in ¼ glass of suger 2 eggs ¼ glass of oil a Teaspoon salt a little glass of shnps then Prepare ½ glass of Look warm water

Wash your hands good you have to make the dou with your hands. Mix it together by spiling slowly the look warm water. when it be all together put the dou on the Board first put flower on the Board not to make try to work it with bought hands I hope you remember How I made it when I made Hole in your House it should become a round piece after that put some flower in that Bowel put the dough cover it up with a clean dish Towl then put a Piliw on the dish towl let it Rize for 3 hours

It should Rize up then you take a Pen put some oil all over the Pen not to much oil make different dizin of small ralls or make a big one let it rize for ¾ of hour. Then it is Ready to bak. you take one egge pupt a little suger in the egg mix it good take a Baking Brush and put the egge all over the Halla or rolls what you want to make back in a low fire about ¾ of an hour I hope it will come out good write if you made the Hollow.

I hope you will understande what I wrote you

Love Grandma

Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

OK the chicken doesn’t need to be Jewish. But this soup will cure any cold, which is why it’s called Jewish penicillin.

My Vietnamese student Dan gave me a the advice to break the bones to expose the marrow to add amazing flavor and nutrients to the broth.


2 Tb chicken fat (Schmaltz) skimmed from chicken drippings

3 stalks celery, leaves also, chopped

1 large carrot chopped, or a handful of baby carrots

1 onion, coarsely chopped with skin

1 leek, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 Tb salt, or to taste

1 quart (4 quarts) plus 1 gallon (16 cups) water

Bones, skin, herbs and vegetables from roasted chicken

A handful of parsley

1 bay leaf

1 tsp black peppercorns

Directions: Roast chicken using my recipe for

Roast Chicken

You can also use a rotisserie chicken.


After serving and boning chicken, reserve bones and skin and herbs. Break the bones to expose the marrow (I use kitchen shears). I include the dark meat we didn’t have for dinner. Refrigerate overnight in a container.

Fill the roasting pan with about a quart (4 cups) of water and bring to a boil. Squeeze the lemon that you cooked in the chicken into the pan, then discard the lemon, since the pith will give a bitter flavor to your broth. Simmer pan for 15 minutes, then turn off the burner and let sit for half an hour. Scrape the drippings from the pan using a metal spatula until they are incorporated into the liquid. Pour into a container and refrigerate overnight.

If I’m not up for making stock the next day, I freeze the bones and drippings until I am ready. Sometimes I will have 2 or 3 frozen carcasses until I’m ready to tackle the soup. If you do this, double the seasonings and add an extra gallon of water to your stock.


The next day, skim the fat (schmaltz) from the refrigerated pan drippings to make two Tb fat. Discard the rest of the fat (unless you are planning to use it for matzo balls).


Melt the fat in a large pot.Saute the chopped vegetables until they are soft, and stir in the herbs.

stock cooking in pot

Add the defatted drippings, along with 1 gallon (16 cups) water, and bring it to a boil. Add the parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, chicken bones and skin to the soup and return to a boil. Simmer for at least an hour and half.

Let cool until you can handle the pan. Strain through a strainer into a container or two, discarding all solids.

container in ice bath

Rinse out soup pot and fill with ice and cold water. Place soup container(s) in the ice bath until cold, then store in refrigerator. This is to safeguard your broth from bacteria growing in lukewarm soup.

The next day you can skim some of the fat off with a slotted spoon (keep a couple of tablespoons for flavor though), and adjust seasonings. This broth can be used as a base for various soups. Serve topped with fresh or dried dill.

  • Add kneydlekh (matzo balls) for special occasions like Passover and Rosh Hashanah or just to help the healing process.

matzo balls in chicken soup

  •  Saute chopped carrots, celery, sugar snap peas or frozen peas in a teaspoon of chicken fat, add hot broth, sliced roasted chicken, and either cooked rice or egg noodles. Sing, “Sippin’ once, Sippin’ twice, Sippin’ chicken soup with rice” along with Carole King and Maurice Sendek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSJ0FDplzjk

chicken rice soup

Mexican fideo soup: My mother-in-law, the beautiful Conchita, immigrated from Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas with a flair for making meals that were bién rica.  I have adapted some of her  recipes such as sopa de fideo, which is Mexican chicken-noodle soup.  She fries the fideo, which is short vermicelli, and adds onions, tomatoes and salsa.

Vegan Version: Omit the chicken. Saute vegetables in olive oil instead of shmaltz and add herbs.  Boil the vegetables and herbs for an hour, then strain and use as a base for vegetable soups.