The women in Cara De Silva's remarkable book, In Memory’s Kitchen: a memoir of life in Terezin, written in recipes," transcended their hunger by “cooking with the mouth”--talking constantly about food--and writing cookbooks. It was not the only cookbook to come out of the concentration camps. According to De Silva, there are five more that she knows of, and certainly others exist. She described one of these manuscripts, authored by Malka Zimmet, an inmate in a work subcamp of Mauthausen. She mentioned a matzoh brie with wine and prunes, and I conjured up the dish and the vanished life that had savored it.
The interplay of tastes and textures--crisp, tender, and eggy matzoh pieces sandwiching tart-sweet juicy prunes--make this matzoh brie an instant hit. When my daughter was homesick during her junior year in Paris, she whipped this up with lacy French matzohs, substituting plumped winy raisins for the prunes.
It is even better with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, which underscores the richness of the dried fruit.
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
- 2 cups pure, unsweetened apple juice, or 1 1/4 cups unsweetened Concord grape juice
- 1 1/2 cups pitted prunes, halved or quartered if large
- 1 teaspoon kosher-for-Passover vanilla extract
- 4 whole plain matzohs
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- About 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup traditional sweet Jewish Concord grape wine
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Accompaniments: plain yogurt, yogurt cream (labne), or sour cream; if additional sweetening is desired: maple syrup, preserves, or honey
Prepare the prunes: In a wide medium saucepan, boil the apple juice over high heat until reduced to about 1 1/4 cups. (If using grape juice, warm it without reducing.) Add the prunes and vanilla, and cook over medium heat until very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. You should have no more than about 1/4 cup of liquid left in the pan; if needed, reduce the liquid for a few minutes over high heat.
In a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably nonstick--the sugar from the prunes will make this matzoh brie somewhat sticky), heat the butter until it sizzles. Add the matzoh and egg mixture all at once. As it begins to set and brown, break it up into largish pieces with a spatula, turning and browning them on both sides. Spoon the stewed prunes and their liquid over the cooked matzoh brie, as a topping. Or you can incorporate the prunes into the matzoh brie: when the matzoh brie is nearly browned, add the prunes and their liquid. Continue lifting and turning until all the matzoh pieces are golden brown and well combined with the prunes. If you prefer a fluffier matzoh brie, lightly fry the matzoh sections until just cooked through on all sides, adding the prunes about halfway through the cooking process.
Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Top with plain yogurt, or if you prefer something richer, yogurt cream or sour cream. It really needs no additional sweetening, but if you wish, serve it with maple syrup, preserves or honey.