Category Archives: Holidays

Passover Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

It’s Passover season again. It’s one of my favorite holidays. I like the seder service, the story of escape and freedom, and gathering around a table with friends and family sharing in a centuries-long tradition. What I don’t like is the dessert options! Traditionally, Passover desserts are a major let down. While I like macaroons, I get sick of them during the weeklong holiday.

But pastry chef’s have really upped the ante in the past few years and have created some really excellent Passover dessert recipes. I found this Bon Appetit recipe for a chocolate tort with berry coulis (I actually replace the blackberry coulis with a raspberry sauce) a few years ago and it has been a major hit around the seder table.

Then last year my boyfriend’s Mom gave me a cookbook called Passover by Design by Susie Fishbein. In it I found this amazing recipe for Passover chocolate chip cheesecake. The crust is made with ground up chocolate macaroons (I use Manischewitz brand), which is just brilliant! You probably can use this crust for any of your favorite tarts or pies in order to make is Pesach appropriate. Chocolate chip and regular macaroons would probably also make a great crust. This recipe is also perfect if you are gluten-free, year round.


Nonstick cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) can chocolate macaroons (about 28 small macaroons)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 (8-ounce) bars cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (not fat-free, reduced fat is fine though)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1.    Preheat oven to 350˚F.

2.    Spray a 9-inch nonstick springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

3.    Place the macaroons into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until it forms crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl. Mix in the melted butter. Press the crumbs into the prepared pan. Set aside.

4.    In the bowl of a stand mixer (can also use a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 1 ½ minutes. Add the sugar and eggs, beating until smooth. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla.

5.    Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter onto the prepared crust.

6.    Bake on the center rack, uncovered, for 1 hour. Turn over off and leave the cake in the oven for an additional oven. Remove from oven and cool completely. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until ready to serve.

7.    Run a small knife or metal spatula around rim of the cake to loosen it. Release the sides of the springform pan.

Makes 12 servings

Pasta Vongole

Growing up I would spend Christmas Eve with my good friend Anne-Marie and her big Italian Catholic family. It is one of my fondest childhood holiday memories. Anne-Marie’s family was big, loud, and boisterous…and they welcomed me in as if I was one of their own. They included me in all their Christmas Eve activities and even had a present for me under the tree. I never felt like a lonely Jew at Christmas.

And best of all was their Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian Christmas Eve feast. Anne-Marie’s dad was a lobsterman and so we had a real bounty of seafood. I remember endless amounts of food coming out of the kitchen—all types of seafood: breaded cod, shrimp cocktail, calamari, pasta with clams, and best of all, pasta with a fiery red lobster sauce. It was incredible!!! All we did was eat, drink, talk, and laugh.

Now that I am an adult and I typically spend Christmas Eve in a more low-key fashion I miss the yearly celebration with my adopted Italian family. This year I decided to hold my own Feast of the Seven Fishes….only since I was dining alone, I had to cut it down to one fish. Pasta Vongole (or pasta with clams) is a recent obsession. Lately, if I see it on an Italian menu I tend to order it. One of my favorite versions can be found at Il Panino in Boston’s North End. But the version below is quite delicious and easy to make any time of year.

Pasta Vongole

1 pound spaghetti
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 ½ pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese (if desired for garnish)

1.    Bring a large pot of water to a boil; salt generously. Add the spaghetti, and cook until slightly underdone, about 7 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Set aside.
2.    Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili; cook until the garlic is golden, about 1 ½ minutes. Add the clams and white wine, and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil; cover and cook, shaking occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, until the clams open. Stir in the parsley. Transfer the clams to a bowl and set aside.
3.    Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the reserved pasta water and lemon juice; reduce until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in the butter. Add the clam mixture and spaghetti. Cook over medium-low heat until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4
Recipe inspired by The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics

Giving Back This Thanksgiving

Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rescue Mission

Throughout the year on State Dinner I celebrate food in abundance. I am blessed to be able to have a well-stocked kitchen to cook in every night and the ability to dine out at the area’s newest restaurants whenever I please. I try to count my blessings often. As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, we collectively take stock of all the things we’ve been provided with throughout the year. Which quickly leads one to think about those who are doing without (and with the current economic situation, there are more families than ever that are struggling to make ends meet).

It has always been a tradition in my family to volunteer year round, but most importantly during the holiday season. My Mom donates a turkey every year to a local area food bank. And for the past few years I have either donated money or volunteered my time at DC-area charities. Below you will find a couple of  food-related ways you and your loved ones can volunteer your time this holiday season. Please remember that these organizations need your help year-round, so while it is important to help out needy families during the holiday season, please consider also stopping by in June as well.

Photo courtesy of the DCJCC


Everything But the Turkey November 22nd and 24th 6:30pm-8:30pm. 500 volunteers meet at the DCJCC (1529 16th Street, NW at the corner of 16th and Q Streets) to prepare 10,000 servings of food for people in need in the Metropolitan area. Over 100 social service agencies (part of DC Central Kitchen) benefit from the side dishes prepared during Everything But the Turkey. I volunteered here last year and had a great time preparing lots and lots of bread stuffing. EBTT is appropriate for all age groups as well, so feel free to bring the entire family!

Note: There is a requested $13 donation to cover some of the supplies used during the volunteer days.

Food and Friends

Food and Friends provides nutritious meals to people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging illnesses. I have been donating to Food and Friends for years because I find their mission particularly compelling. They don’t just provide food for those in ill-health but also provide companionship and company. There are a number of opportunities to assist Food and Friends during the holiday season:

  • Slice of Life is a holiday fundraising event where people in the DC area can buy pies and the money will be donated to Food and Friends. Fellow food blogger Dining in DC is selling pies in various flavors like sweet potato, pumpkin, and chocolate cheesecake. Consider helping out her efforts. In addition to buying a pie you can volunteer on November 23rd from 10:30am-8:30pm (various shifts are available) at one of the 22 pie pick-up locations through out the DC/MD/VA area.
  • Turkey Box delivery will take place November 22nd-24th. The Turkey Boxes include everything a family will need for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, side dishes, dessert). Flexible schedules are available and you will be given a couple of different addresses to deliver to.
  • On November 22nd-24 at 8am, 10am, 1pm, and 5pm, groups will be gathering to prepare food for Thanksgiving meals. Also on Thanksgiving Day you can volunteer to prepare and deliver meals.

Photo courtesy of creativeloafingdotcom

Bread for the City

Starting now through December 24th Bread for the City is welcoming volunteers in to their Northwest Center (1525 7th Street, NW) and Southeast Center (1640 Good Hope Road, SE) from 1-3pm, Monday-Thursday to help pack up turkey dinners (fully equipped with all the classic fixings). Bread for the City plans to distribute these meals to over 8,000 families in need.

There are also options for larger, corporate volunteer days, so consider gathering taking a half-day at the office and give back to your community.

If you know of more Thanksgiving volunteer opportunities in the DC area please feel free to list them below in the comments area.


Thanksgiving is a very big deal in my family. The only time I ever missed a Thanksgiving at my parent’s house was when I was studying abroad in Denmark, and even then my Mom sent me a package with everything I would need to host Thanksgiving dinner overseas (minus the turkey—which is apparently

Photo courtesy of ConstructionDealMkting

impossible to find in Copenhagen). We always have a traditional New England Thanksgiving at home with family and friends. It’s wonderful, but I recognize that not everyone wants to deal with the planning, the cooking, and most importantly, the dishes.

This is one of those situations where outsourcing is not so bad. A number of DC-area restaurants host wonderful Thanksgiving dinners with lots of options and all the fixin’s. It’s just a matter of deciding what style dinner you want…and making reservations (which are highly recommended). Here are some of my choices for Thanksgiving dinner out.

Classic Thanksgiving:

*Equinox– Hot off a new post-fire renovation and review from Tom Sietsema, spend your holiday with Chef Todd Gray and his New American Mid-Atlantic cuisine. Start off with a glass of champagne and an oyster roast on the patio. Then move on to the 3-course ala carte menu featuring kobocha squash soup, Ayrshire Farms Red Bourbon Turkey with cider-cranberry gravy, and heirloom pumpkin seed cake with mascarpone ice cream. After dinner you can take a short walk to the White House and around the various monuments.

818 Connecticut Avenue, NW 202-331-8118 $55/person ala carte menu. Dinner offered from 2-7pm

*701– Dinner at the classic restaurant will include an ala carte menu featuring venison stuffed sage leaves, eco-friendly turkey and suckling pig, and pumpkin and sweet potato tart. Grab a drink before or after your meal at the bar and listen to the live jazz. 701 will also be featuring valet parking, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW 202-393-0701 $45/person. Dinner offered from 11am-9pm

An International Take:

*Bibiana– Perhaps you would like to forgo the traditional Thanksgiving meal and head to the Amalfi Coast instead of Plymouth Rock. In that case you might enjoy Bibiana’s 3-course Italian menu. Their Thanksgiving menu includes such tasty items as chestnut soup with grappa cream, Heritage turkey two-ways, and monkfish poached in beet juice.

1100 New York Ave., NW (located on the corner of 12th and H Streets) 202-216-9550 $45/person. Dinner offered from 11am-4pm

*Bistro Bis– Bistro Bis, a Capitol Hill favorite, will be offering a delicious Thanksgiving menu with a French Twist. I imagine Thanksgiving dinner at Julia Child’s house might look a little like this. The ala carte menu features venison carpaccio, roasted turkey with sweet potato mousseline and giblet gravy, lamb shank bretonne and mashed potatoes with truffle butter. Dinner at Bistro Bis also gives the perfect excuse to head up to the Capitol Building after dinner and get the perfect view of the National Mall all lit up and covered in leaves.

15 E Street, NW 202-661-2700 Dinner offered 12-8pm.

Photo courtesy of Tramie's Kitchen

Taking It South of  the Mason-Dixon Line:

*Art and Soul– Head to this restaurant if you want a little taste of the South. Art and Soul offers diners a number of classic Southern dishes including passed plates of deviled eggs, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and spicy collard greens. There will be carving stations with roasted turkey, bourbon maple-glazed ham, and herb roasted prime rib. Everyone gets to choose their own dessert like pecan or apple pie. And as an added bonus Art and Soul gives you a take home leftover turkey sandwich with all the trimmings—just because you’re not cooking the meal, doesn’t mean you should miss out on the midnight snacking!

415 New Jersey Ave., NW 202-393-7777 Dinner offered 11am-9pm. $65/adults and $25/kids (6-12 years old)

Regardless of where you end up I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of Vicky's Nature