The Hills Are Alive … During Lag B’Omer


Lag B'Omer represents a joyful break between Passover and Shavuot. It takes place on the 33rd day after the second day of Passover, in the midst of the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot. (Lag is the Hebrew numerical equivalent of 33).

In Israel, families celebrate by hiking in the hills or picnicking in one of the parks. For others, it's getting together for an evening meal or for coffee and cake.

There are many explanations for the holiday, but according to Kabbalists, Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai, the alleged author of the Zohar, the basic book of Kabbalah, died on Lag B'Omer and requested that his death be celebrated, not mourned. Thus, Lag B'Omer is the one day between Passover and Shavuot that weddings can take place.

As I've just returned from the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in New Orleans, the flavors of the deep South still linger. So, instead of having a L'ag B'omer Shabbat chicken dinner, we'll light the candles and have a dairy High Tea with tastes of Cajun country.

Virgin Mango Margarita

2 medium ripe mangos, cubed 
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice 
1 cup canned mango nectar 
1/3 cup orange juice 
1/3 cup sugar or to taste 
11/2 cups crushed ice 
4 lime wedges

Place the mango, lime juice, mango nectar, orange juice, 1/3 cup sugar and ice in a blender jar.

Whirl 20 seconds, or until puréed. Adjust sugar to taste.

Pour into chilled glasses.

Garnish with lime wedges.

Note: You may dip margarita glasses in egg white and then in sugar. Chill before using.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 178; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 46 g; fat, 0 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 4 mg.

Mardi Gras Trout Salad

The vegetables are symbols of the Mardi Gras colors: purple for justice, green for faith, gold for power. May substitute cooked salmon or smoked fish for the trout.

2 Tbsps. Dijon-style mustard 
3 Tbsps. seasoned rice vinegar 
1/2 cup olive oil 
4 cups shredded iceberg lettuce 
3 cups shredded purple cabbage 
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced 
3 cups flaked cooked trout or salmon

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the oil, blending until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, place the lettuce, cabbage, bell pepper and trout or salmon.

Stir the dressing again and pour over top. Toss gently.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 352; protein, 15 g; carbohydrates, 3 g; fat, 32 g; cholesterol, 41; sodium, 436 mg.

Muffuletta Sandwich, Kosher-style

1 round crusty loaf, about 8-inches in diameter 
2 Tbsps. wine vinegar 
salt and freshly ground pepper 
1/2 cup pitted, sliced black olives 
1/2 lb. Provolone cheese, thinly sliced 
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced 
1 can (6.5 oz.) tuna in oil, drained 
1 cup alfalfa sprouts

Cut a slice of bread about 2 inches down from top of loaf. Set aside.

Remove the soft bread from the remaining loaf to leave a 1-inch shell. (Use the soft bread for breadcrumbs and freeze for another recipe, such as meat loaf).

Sprinkle the inside of the bread shell with vinegar, then lightly with salt and pepper.

Arrange layers of olives, cheese, tomatoes and tuna in bread shell. Cover with the alfalfa sprouts. Place top bread slice on, pressing down lightly.

Using a serrated knife, cut in quarters to serve.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 369; protein, 27 g; carbohydrates, 23 g; fat, 18 g; cholesterol, 37 mg; sodium, 841 mg.

Caramel 'n' Chocolate Pecan Bars

Courtesy of Land O'Lakes

Crust Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed 
1 stick butter, softened 
1 cup pecan halves

Topping Ingredients:

2/3 cup butter 
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed 
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°.

In a bowl, combine all crust ingredients, except the pecans.

Beat at medium speed until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Press into the bottom of an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.

Place pecans evenly over the unbaked crust.

For Topping: Combine 2/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a 1-quart saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until entire surface of mixture begins to boil.

Continue boiling, stirring constantly for 1 minute only.

Pour mixture evenly over the pecans and crust.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until caramel layer is bubbly. Do not overbake!

Remove from oven.

Immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips, allowing to melt slightly. Swirl the melted chips over bars, leaving some whole for a marbled effect.

Cool completely. Cut into bars.

Makes 36 bars.

Approximate nutrients per bar: calories, 156; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 18 g; fat, 10 g; cholesterol, 16 mg; sodium, 5 mg.

Lavender-Honey Shortbread

Dried, fragrant lavender "buds," O.U. certified, are now available packaged by McCormick Spices. This recipe is courtesy of McCormick & Co. Inc.

1 cup plus 2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour 
11/3 cups confectioners' sugar, divided 
2 Tbsps. cornstarch 
1 1 stick butter, slightly softened, cut in chunks 
2 Tbsps. honey 
1/2 tsp. dried lavender 
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract, divided 
2 Tbsps. milk

Preheat the oven to 300°.

Place the flour, 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in the food processor. Cover and pulse to blend.

Add the butter. Cover and pulse until coarse crumbs form.

Add the honey, lavender and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Cover and pulse until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Place dough in an ungreased 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Place waxed paper over the dough and press to form a smooth, even layer. Pierce dough with a fork, then score with a sharp knife into 12 wedges.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until firm and just starting to brown around edges. (The shortbread should be pale in color).

Place pan on wire rack. Cut through into wedges. While still warm but not hot, remove from pan to wire rack to cool.

Mix the remaining confectioners sugar, milk and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl. Blend.

Drizzle over the cooled shortbread.

Serves 12.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 180; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 26 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 21 mg; sodium, 3 mg.

Café Brulot

New Orleans coffee contains 30 percent to 40 percent chicory, which is the finely ground root of the endive plant. The practice was brought to New Orleans by the French to stretch the coffee beans. It is available in cans in French Market stores. A dark-roast coffee may be substituted.

1 large lemon 
2 cinnamon sticks 
4-6 whole cloves 
3 Tbsps. sugar or to taste 
1/2 cup brandy 
11/2 Tbsps. orange liqueur (i.e., Sabra) 
4 cups hot, brewed dark-roast coffee

Using a lemon zester, scrape the zest (thin peel) from the lemon.

Place in a small pan, along with the cinnamon sticks, cloves, sugar, brandy and orange liqueur.

Heat over medium-high heat until hot, but not boiling.

Pour into a chafing dish (a metal fondue pot is fine for this) over a heat such as Sterno. Stand back and ignite.

Add the hot coffee and stir gently. Ladle into demitasse cups or small heat-proof glasses.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 114; protein, 0 g; carbohydrates, 11 g; fat, 0 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 1 mg.


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