It’s a mid-March Friday night in an Irish pub, and three girls are perched on stools padded by their heavy winter coats. They rustle for wallets in their over-filled bags, settle their tab, and drain the last drops from their glasses – two beers and a cider. As they turn on their stools and scramble to gather their coats purses hats gloves, an elderly gentleman enters the bar.
Cap pulled over his eyes, an oversized jacket hanging off his shoulders, a plaid scarf wrapped around his neck, he introduces himself as Nick. “Ladies, where are you going?”
“We’re heading home.”
“Why? You’re going to leave me here all alone?”
“We have to get home…it’s been a long night. We need our beauty rest.”
“What were you doing before you got here?”
“We were at a shabbat dinner.”
“Oh, you’re Jewish? You’re Jewish!”
“Yes, we are.”
“Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof? I love Fiddler on the Roof. Have you seen it?”
“Yes, we have.”
“I love Fiddler on the Roof! Do you know what else?”
“I love matzah. I eat it all year.”
He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a few shards of matzah. Then into his shirt pocket for a few more. And his pants pocket for another handful. He hands a piece to each of the girls.
“I always keep matzah in my pockets. I have to have it with me all the time, I just love matzah so much. I love Fiddler on the Roof too.”
The girls smile and take a few steps backwards towards the door, tightening scarves and adjusting hats, all while holding on to their matzah gifts.
“Now girls, don’t leave me here all alone.”
“We have to go. It’s late.”
“Please don’t go.”
They smile again and turn away. He grabs the hand of the closest girl and swoops in with a peck on the cheek.
The girls giggle and walk into the wind, leaving behind the warmth of the bar and Nick with his matzah.
Happy holiday of matzah. Whether you celebrate this week or all year round or not at all.
Orange Blossom Macaroons
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s recipe, new classic coconut macaroons 2.0, in her book “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies.” The key is to buy the largest unsweetened coconut flakes (sometimes called coconut chips) instead of shredded coconut. I replaced vanilla with orange blossom water and added orange zest. Medrich suggests a half-dozen variations, including pressing a square of dark chocolate into the still-warm macaroon, adding lime zest and cinnamon, or mixing in pecans, chocolate and dried sour cherries.
Makes about 30 cookies
– 4 large egg whites
– 3 1/2 C unsweetened dried flaked coconut (also known as coconut chips, not shredded)
– 3/4 C sugar
– 1 t orange zest
– 2 t orange blossom water
– a generous pinch salt
Mix. In a heavy stockpot over very low heat or a large stainless steel bowl set directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water, combine all of the ingredients. Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent burning and lowering the heat if it starts to brown. Initially the mix will be really sticky, glossy and stringy. Continue to stir for about 5-7 minutes until mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and become opaque. At that point, there will be no more strings. Be careful because hot sugar can burn.
Wait. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to let the coconut absorb more of the goop.
Prep. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
Scoop. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter about 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. The piles of coconut will look a bit shaggy and may fall apart a little bit. Keep a small dish of water nearby and use wet fingertips to neaten things up.
Bake. Bake for about 5 minutes, just until the coconut tips begin to color, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.
Keep baking. Lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are a beautiful cream and gold with deeper brown edges, again rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time. If the coconut tips are browning too fast, lower the heat to 300°F. Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool — the macaroons will still be a bit soft, but will crisp up as they cool. Be careful handling the macaroons at this point because hot sugar can burn. Let cool completely before gently peeling the parchment away from each cookie.
Store. The cookies are best on the day they are baked — the exterior is crisp and chewy and the interior soft and moist. Although the crispy edges will soften, the cookies remain delicious stored in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days.