Chef Fran Costigan

Dukkah-Spiced Chocolate–Covered Matzoh for Passover

Dukkah-Spiced Chocolate–Covered MatzohMy aunt Arlene, cousin Sheila’s mom (Sheila Bender of, was our family’s gourmet cook, and she made a fine French Passover meal one year. It was not a hit. I tried changing up the ritual Charoset a few times but my family was disappointed. They wanted the Ashkenazi version, which is primarily apples, walnuts, cinnamon bound with a little sweet Passover wine or grape juice. They did not want the date-based Sephardic charoset on our table. Thinking chocolate could give a newish traditional dish a chance, I created a Dukkah-Spiced Chocolate-Covered Matzoh. It was a hit. You need not be Jewish or to celebrate Passover to enjoy this recipe. I can see Dukka-Spice Dusted Chocolate Covered Crackers on the Easter table. Why not?

Note: This is my favorite version of dukkah, but if you have one you are happy with, of course, use it. Also: this stuff disappears fast! Instead of making more in the middle of the festivities, do what I did: Put out a tray of matzoh, a bowl of ganache, a few spreaders, a spoon, and a bowl of dukkah. It’s a little messier, but good!

Dukkah-Spiced Chocolate Covered Matzoh

Makes 4 pieces of matzoh


Dukkah Topping

  • 1 ounce / 30 grams skinned hazelnuts or raw unpeeled almonds
  • 1 ounce / 30 grams shelled pistachios, unsalted
  • 1/4 cup / 35 grams natural sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon / 5 grams coriander seeds
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons / 4 grams anise seeds
1 teaspoon / 2 grams cumin seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon / 2 grams black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon / 3 grams flaked sea salt


  • 4 pieces matzoh (each about a 6 x 7-inch / 15 x 17-cm rectangle)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons / 22.5 ml extra-virgin olive oil, at room temperature
  • 1 cup / 240 ml Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Glaze (recipe follows) warmed in a water bath until spreadable


Make The Dukkah Spice Mix

  1. Toast the hazelnuts (or almonds) and pistachios in a dry skillet over low heat for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan so the nuts do not burn. Set aside in a bowl to cool.
  2. Toast the sesame seeds, coriander seeds, anise seeds, cumin seeds, and peppercorns in the same skillet until fragrant, about 2 minutes, shaking the skillet frequently. Pour into a bowl and let cool completely.
  3. Combine all the ingredients in an electric spice or nut grinder. Grind until the mixture looks like flaked sea salt, not too fine and not too coarse. (If you want to be authentic and use a mortar and pestle you will likely have to do this in 2 or 3 batches.)
  4. Mix the salt into the dukkah and pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Make The Chocolate-Coated Matzoh

  1. Line up the matzoh on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
  2. Stir the olive oil into the softened ganache. It is fine if the oil is not thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Spread 4 tablespoons / 60 ml ganache on each piece of matzoh. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons (about 26 grams), more or less to taste, of the dukkah. Refrigerate briefly to set the chocolate.


Serve the prepared matzoh at once or refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened for a crunchier (and less messy) treat. Break or cut each coated matzoh into 12 pieces and arrange on a platter.


Keep any leftover pieces in a covered container at room temperature for two to three days.


Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Glaze

It will take longer to read this recipe than to make it, but its success is all about the quality and taste of the chocolate and following the details in the recipe. As long as you stay within the percentages listed, any premium quality chocolate you enjoy eating is the one to use. The important part is to chop the chocolate very fine and to strain the hot milk. Allowing the chocolate to melt into the milk for the full 4 minutes is not optional. And stir only until the chocolate and milk are emulsified—that is, glossy and smooth. Over-mixing may turn your silken ganache gritty. If the chocolate has not completely melted after the ganache is mixed, bring the water in the saucepan on the stove to a simmer and turn off the heat. Place the bowl of ganache on the saucepan for a few minutes, then stir very gently until the chocolate has melted and the ganache is smooth.

Makes 2 Cups / 480 Ml


  • 8 ounces / 227 grams dark chocolate (70 to 72%), finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups / 300 ml organic almond milk or soymilk (more as needed to adjust consistency)
  • 2 tablespoons / 18 grams organic granulated sugar
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons / 6.25 ml pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons / 10 ml mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil (optional but recommended for sheen)



  1. Add the chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set aside while you heat the milk.
  1. Pour the milk into a small saucepan. Add the sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking a few times to a low boil.
  2. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat. Pour the hot milk over the chopped chocolate all at once. Rotate the bowl so the chocolate is completely submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate and let stand undisturbed for 4 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla and olive oil (if using) and whisk from the center out only until smooth and glossy. (If the chocolate is not completely melted, refer to the Sidebar on page 28 for instructions on using a water bath to melt the chocolate.)
  4. Keep the bowl of ganache at room temperature while you test the final consistency. Dip a teaspoon into the ganache, set the coated spoon on a small plate, and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. After chilling, the ganache on the spoon should be smooth and 
firm, but should still taste creamy. It is unlikely, but if the glaze is too firm, add a tablespoon of room temperature milk, and repeat the test. Add a second tablespoon if needed.
  1. Pass the ganache through a strainer into a bowl. Whisking slowly will speed the process.
  2. Allow the ganache to thicken at room temperature for 15 to 25 minutes, or until it will coat a spoon thickly with minimal dripping, but remain pourable. Stir a few times from the outside into the center before glazing.


The glaze can be refrigerated in a tightly closed container for up to five days and frozen for up to one month. The glaze hardens when it is cold and will need to be reheated. To reheat, spoon the glaze into a heatproof bowl that fits over a saucepan of barely simmering water. When about two-thirds of the glaze is melted, stir gently until it is smooth. Adjust the consistency as needed by stirring warm nondairy milk into the glaze a little at a time.


Recipes reprinted with permission from Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, by Fran Costigan, (Running Press 2013). Photo credit: © Hannah Kaminsky


I love comments.  What are your thoughts on changing up traditional holiday menus, whatever that means to your family? Do you have one dish you especially love?

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Ricki Heller’s As You Like It Kale Salad and a Giveaway

Living Candida-Free

I knew of award-winning blogger Ricki Heller by reputation only before she came to New York City last year. I’ve admired her expertise in the areas of gluten-free and candida diets, so when she came to my home town, I was to share a meal with her and other vegan culinary friends at Candle Café West. We spoke about many things, including her then yet to be launched newest cookbook, Living Candida-Free. After reading my review copy, I knew this was a book I wanted to promote. I’ve got some information and a recipe here for you as well as a chance to win a copy of Living Candida-Free.

Many health issues can be linked to the more than seventy pounds of sugar that the average American consumes annually—from obesity and bad skin to diabetes and cancer. But one of the most difficult sugar-related disorders to diagnose can cause many serious complications ranging from chronic fatigue and pain, digestion disorders, and weight gain to brain fog, depression, and allergies: an overgrowth of candida. Candida, a yeast that naturally occurs in and on the human body, is usually harmless; however, once it starts feeding off extra sugar in the body and multiplying rapidly, it can cause a person to become seriously ill. And because the symptoms caused are so wide-ranging, many doctors have a hard time diagnosing it—leading many health professionals to call it a hidden epidemic.

In Living Candida Free: 100 Recipes and a 3-Phase Program to Restore Your Health and Vitality, registered holistic nutritionist Ricki Heller, with functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama, outlines a health plan and diet designed to help readers combat the candida overgrowth that’s making them sick. Heller walks readers through the four principles of the plan: restoring good digestion, detoxifying the body, repopulating the gut with healthful bacteria, and coping with any other imbalances, including anxiety and stress, that the condition has caused.

Heller outlines a three-phase vegan, sugar-free, and gluten-free Anti-Candida Diet (ACD) designed to starve the yeast while nurturing the rest of the body, and includes a Yeast Assessment quiz for readers to gauge their needs. Instead of relying on fixed timelines that ignore the body’s signals and progress, the phases of the ACD are flexible and are cued by how readers are progressing.

A guidebook for those needing to cut refined sugar out of their diets, Living Candida Free arms readers with everything they need to retake control of their lives—and their health.


As You Like It Kale Salad


Kale is one of my favorite superfoods, chock-full of antioxidants that fight cancer, anti-inflammatory compounds, a slew of vitamins and minerals, and a good amount of fiber. And best of all, it tastes great! This salad is also infinitely adaptable, depending on which combination of veggies you choose from each category. I generally use whatever I’ve got in the refrigerator that day, and the result is always delicious. As long as you include the base, a few crunchy veggies, and some fresh herbs and nuts or seeds, the rest can be omitted if desired and you’ll still end up with a yummy salad.

Makes 6 to 8 side salad servings or 3 to 5 main course servings.

The Base

  • 1 bunch (6 to 9 leaves) curly kale or Swiss chard, or a combination
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • 1 cup (240 ml) mixed baby salad greens, bite-size romaine lettuce, bite-size butter lettuce, arugula (rocket), or a combination

Crunchy Veggies

  • 1 medium-size carrot, grated
  • 1 medium-size beet, grated
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/2 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cored and diced
  • Fresh Herbs
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) of at least 2 types of coarsely chopped fresh herbs (my favorites are dill, basil, mint, flat-leaf parsley, and cilantro)

Nuts and/or Seeds

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) total of any combination of fresh nut pieces and seeds (my favorite combinations are walnuts or pecans and hemp seeds; walnuts or pecans and sunflower seeds; almonds and pumpkin seeds)

The Crucifers

2 cups (480 ml) total of any of the following (or any combination):

  • Finely shredded green or red cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Fruit (if allowed; otherwise, omit):
  • 1 apple or pear, cored and diced; or 1 cup (240 ml) fresh blueberries or strawberries; or 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced

Other Add-Ins (all of these are optional)

  • 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
  • 4 to 6 radishes, sliced into half-moons
  • 1/3 cucumber, sliced into half-moons
  • Handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Handful of sprouts (my favorites are sunflower, pea, or alfalfa sprouts)
  • 1 recipe Classic Oil and Lemon Dressing (see recipe)


Make the base: Soften the kale: Remove the kale leaves from the stems; discard the stems, then wash and dry the leaves. Stack the leaves, roll tightly (jelly-roll style), then cut thinly crosswise to create long, thin shreds. Chop the shreds into smaller pieces and place in a large salad bowl.

Sprinkle the kale with salt and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil. Using clean hands, “massage” the kale, squeezing it and squishing it between your fingers, until it begins to darken and soften a bit (this breaks down the fibers in the leaves and renders them more easily digestible—but they will still retain a nice crunch). If using chard, wash and chop it using the same method and add to the bowl (it doesn’t need to be massaged).

Assemble the salad: Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl. Drizzle with the dressing, toss, and serve. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days (and will still remain crunchy!).

Note: For Stage 1 of the diet, omit the fruit. It will still taste yummy!


Classic Oil and Lemon Dressing

This deceptively simple and flavorful dressing is a perfect accompaniment to any crisp, leafy green salad, or wherever you would have used a classic balsamic dressing. I also love it as a dip for freshly steamed artichokes.

Makes about 1/3 cup (80 ML) dressing


  • 2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, preferably organic
  • Juice of 1/2 large lemon
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 to 5 drops plain pure liquid stevia, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) dry mustard
  • Fine sea salt

Whisk all the ingredients together until emulsified; pour over the salad greens and toss. Store leftover dressing in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Recipes from Living Candida-Free by Ricki Heller. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2015.


I have a copy of Living Candida-Free for one lucky reader. Follow the instructions below to enter. US and Canadian residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight eastern time on March 22nd. Good luck!
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Nutrition Champs Recipe and a Giveaway

Nutriton Champs

Full disclosure: Jill Nussinow, RD, aka the VeggieQueen and I are very good friends. She stays in my apartment when she’s in NYC, I’ve stayed in her home in paradise (Santa Rosa, CA) and we’ve been roommates at many culinary conferences since meeting more years ago than I can remember, at an IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Conference. My remembering says we met in Northern California and Jill says it was in Chicago, but no matter, we bonded and have been fast friends ever since. We learned that we both grew up on Long Island, NY, that we both take our own healthy snacks and teas to conferences, and that we are are not junk food vegans. Jill’s work as the “Veggie Queen” and mine as the so-called “Dessert Queen” sound dramatcially different, but really, we are on the same page. We want people to give up processed food and to get back into the kitchen and cook! I am a fan of Jill’s previous cookbooks as well as her DVD on pressure-cooking, but I have to say that her new book, Nutrition CHAMPS takes the cake! Jill’s vast knowledege of food and nutrition plus her trademark humor will coax the most unsure cook into the kitchen to make the food of champions. You‘ll find recipes from favorite cookbook authors and bloggers including Dreena Burton, Chef AJ, Kathy Hester, Robin Robertson and too many more to list here, in addition to Jill’s original dishes. I’ve got a fruit based dessert in the book that is naturally no-sugar, no oil, no gluten. The forward was written by Dr. Mary (Clifton) Wendt of Get Waisted. I am happy to promote this book. Read about it and enter to win the giveaway. You might win a copy.

Nutrition CHAMPS is a paperback and downloadable cookbook with 200 recipes, many of which are gluten-free, no oil, low or no sugar and salt. The recipes span 6 groups of food:

    • Cruciferous Vegetables
    • Herbs and Spices
    • Alliums
    • Mushrooms
    • Pulses (beans, peas and lentils)
    • Seeds and Nuts


The breadth of recipes from breakfast to desserts cover all the CHAMPS foods, including raw, cooked and pressure cooked. You will learn more about the health benefits of each food category, with tempting recipes that you can eat daily.


 Blueberry Gel


This soft and creamy dish has an especially beautiful color thanks to the blueberries, which are as healthful as they are delicious

Serves 4–6



  • 1⁄4 cup (4 tablespoons) agar flakes
  • 4 cups organic, no sugar added apple juice
  • 1 1⁄2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over, rinsed, and patted dry (or use frozen berries)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 2 tablespoons filtered water at room temperature


  1. Measure the agar into a medium saucepan. Pour in the juice, but do not stir or heat. Set aside for 10 minutes or longer to allow the agar to soften. This step will help the agar dissolve thoroughly and easily.
  2. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, and stir to release any bits of agar that may be stuck on the bottom of the saucepan. Cover and simmer for 7–10 minutes, stirring a few times. Uncover and check the juice in the saucepan, examining a large spoonful for specks of agar. If necessary, cover and simmer longer, until the agar has completely dissolved. Uncover, and add the cinnamon and blueberries. Simmer 1 minute if using fresh berries and 2–3 minutes if using frozen berries.
  3. Combine the arrowroot with the water in a small bowl and stir with a fork to dissolve. Add the dissolved arrowroot to the simmering juice mixture, whisking constantly. Cook over medium heat only until the liquid boils. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat. (If you cook or stir arrowroot-thickened mixtures after they have boiled, they are likely to become thin again.)
  4. Pour into a bowl and cool for 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate 30–40 minutes,
    or until set. Spoon the set gel into a food processor and pulse a few times until creamy. Pour into a serving dish or individual dishes. Store leftover gel in a covered container. It will keep for 2–3 days in the refrigerator.

Note: If you can only get agar agar powder, use 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) instead of the flakes but the flakes are preferred.

Variation — Blueberry Sauce: Purée a portion of the gel in a blender or food processor with enough additional juice to achieve the consistency you like.


Adapted from More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally, © 2006 by Fran Costigan.

I have a copy of the Nutrition CHAMPS ebook for one lucky reader. Follow the instructions below to enter. This giveaway is open to everyone, everywhere. Contest ends at midnight eastern time on March 22nd. Good luck!

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When: March 25, 2015 – March 30, 2015 all-day
Where: Marriott Renaissance , 999 9th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20001, USA

  The IACP 2015 Annual Conference takes place in Washington, D.C, March 27-30 at the Marriott Renaissance Downtown Hotel. I’ll be there as an attendee, not a speaker, but I’ll be blogging about the conference as well as the vegan scene…