You don't even have to be a wee bit Irish to tap your inner leprechaun.
Come March, we're all yearning to celebrate loud and proud. A day set aside in Ireland for spiritual renewal and prayer is an excuse for wearin' o' the green, eating corned beef and cabbage and raising a pint or two.
March 17 marks the death of the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick, who lived at the end of the fourth century, brought Christianity to Ireland and is said to have driven the snakes out of the Emerald Isle and into the ocean. We can also thank him for shamrocks and luck: He used the shamrock to teach the Christian doctrine of the trinity.
Irish celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna has fond memories of breakfast and then Mass, followed by a parade and a pot of beef and Guinness stew on St. Patrick's Day.
McKenna, whom Forbes calls Ireland's answer to Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart, reminisces about her favorite holiday in her new cookbook "Clodagh's Kitchen Diaries" (Kyles Books, $27.95).
Here's a pot of golden ideas, many from McKenna, to celebrate St. Patrick's Day:
Send St. Patrick's Day cards.
Go on a leprechaun hunt.
Have leprechauns make mischief by leaving green footprints on washable surfaces: Make a fist with the right hand and dip the bottom of the fist in washable green paint. Stamp the paint on paper, the fridge or the floor and add toes. Repeat with the left hand. Repeat as necessary. Add to the magic by leaving a trail of gold glitter, and make little messes around the room. Also, leave chocolate gold coins or a crock o' green beads.
Hand out pots of gold: Place Rolo candies at the bottom of a tall, narrow plastic bag. Add layers of M&M's in rainbow colors. or place Rolos at the bottom of a zip-close bag, top with multicolored licorice made into an upside-down U. The card can read: You're the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.
Greet guests in Gaelic with a hundred thousand welcomes: 'Céad míle fáilte' (kayd meeluh foll-tjuh).
Serve Irish coffee: Add 2 tablespoons of Irish whiskey to a warmed glass and stir in 1 teaspoon of brown sugar. Add 2/3 cup of strong coffee and, using the back of a spoon, pour cream onto the surface of the coffee.
Share shamrock-shaped cookies frosted with green icing.
Make McKenna's smoked salmon mousse in a bowl set in the middle of a large platter. Surround the platter with crudités of celery, carrot and cucumber to replicate the Irish flag.
To make the mousse, blend together 8 ounces smoked salmon, 3 ounces softened cream cheese, 2 ounces crème fraîche, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill and the juice of 1 lemon, and then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Turn food green: McCormick Kitchens suggests varying the drops of food color in three layers of white cake mix to produce a multi-colored green cake: 9 drops Green plus 3 drops Yellow produce mint green; 25 drops Neon Green plus 2 drops Neon Blue make green apple; 40 drops Blue plus 16 drops Green equal teal green; 50 drops Green plus 12 drops Yellow equal garden green; 50 drops Green plus 4 drops Blue equal shamrock green; 2 teaspoons Green creates emerald green. For green beer, add 5 to 6 drops of green food color to 12 ounces of beer. For an emerald milkshake, add pure peppermint extract in addition to green food coloring to turn a classic vanilla milkshake into a refreshingly cool treat.
Make it Erin go Bragh: Ireland forever! -- at least on St. Patrick's Day.
Modesto Bee staff writer Sharon K. Ghag can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2340.
Shabbat almond, peach and apple kuchen
Serves 8 to 10
Yeast dough: 2/3 cup lukewarm milk (or soy milk)
2 level teaspoons active dry yeast
2½ cups organic bread flour
A pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter (or non-dairy margarine)
1/3 cup superfine sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
2 heaping teaspoons vanilla sugar
Grated zest of ½ orange and ½ lemon
2 eggs, divided use
Filling: 2 large apples, 2 heaping teaspoons vanilla sugar, 1 (15-ounce) can peaches in juice, ¾ cup golden raisins, grated zest of ½ orange and ½ lemon, a few drops of almond extract, 1 cup ground almonds
To decorate: About 1 cup powdered sugar; juice of ½ lemon; pecan nuts and pumpkin seeds
Pour the warm milk into a small bowl and whisk in the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1 heaping tablespoon flour. Set aside in a warm place to ferment for about 15 minutes until bubbles appear on the surface.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Peel and core the apples, roughly chop the flesh, and place in a pan with the vanilla sugar. Strain the peach juice into the pan and set over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil, put on a lid, and simmer gently until the apples are tender and fluffy. Add the drained peaches, raisins, zests, and almond extract. Fold in the ground almonds a spoonful at a time to make a soft, but not sloppy, filling. You may need to add extra (or less) ground almonds depending on the moisture of your apples. Set aside.
Sift the remaining flour with a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter or margarine with your fingers and stir in the sugars and grated orange and lemon zest.
Add one of the eggs to the bubbling yeast mixture and beat well with a fork. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and combine to a soft, pliable dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and leave to rise in a warm place for about 40 to 60 minutes until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and punch out the air with your fists. Roll out the dough to form a long rectangle, 6-by-12 inches. Spread the apple filling over the dough, leaving a border all around, tuck in the ends, and then roll up like a jelly roll. Place on your prepared baking sheet, slash the top a few times diagonally to reveal some of the filling, and cover with the same towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 20 to 30 minutes until doubled in size.
Glaze the kuchen with the remaining beaten egg and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until puffed up and golden. To make the topping, mix the powdered sugar with the lemon juice to form a stiff frosting. Drizzle over the hot cake and decorate with nuts and seeds.
Recipe tester: Use ½ cup blackberry jam for the filling if you're pressed for time. Also delicious is a filling made with ½ tube marizpan, 1 tube almond paste, a few drops almond extract and the juice of 1 large orange processed in a food processor until smooth and spreadable. To stay true to St. Patrick's day, turn this into a barm brack, or yeast bread. You'll need ½ cup raisins, ½ cup currants, 2 tablespoons citron, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon cloves and 1/3 cup sugar. Mix filling ingredients together. After the first rise, roll out the dough and spread sugar mixture inside. Roll up the pastry, let rise until doubled and bake as directed in a prepared angel food cake pan.
This recipe is also from "Jewish Traditional Cooking."
2 small or 1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound red or Yukon gold potatoes, washed, whole
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 organic free-range eggs
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
4 pounds baking potatoes (such as russet)
4 tablespoons ground almonds
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt; ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and grease a 10-by-14-inch pan.
In a small frying pan, gently cook the onion in 1 tablespoon of the oil until soft but not colored. Meanwhile, boil the red or Yukon gold potatoes in their skins for about 15 minutes until almost tender but not soft. Drain and set aside. Scrape the softened onion into a food processor, add the parsley and eggs, and purée until smooth. Scrape into a large bowl and stir in the lemon juice. (If you don't have a processor, simply finely chop the parsley and mix with the beaten eggs and cooked onion.)
Peel the baking potatoes and grate them on the coarse side of a grater into the bowl with the lemon and egg mixture. Mix well with your hands, taking care that potato is coated with the lemon and egg mixture; the lemon will stop the potato from oxidizing and turning black. Mix in the ground almonds, sugar, and salt and pepper, and pour into the prepared pan. Thickly slice the boiled red or Yukon gold potatoes and arrange them over the top. Brush with the remaining oil and season with more salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour until slightly puffed up and golden.
Tester's note: Potatoes are staples in many cuisines, including in Ireland. Parsley adds flecks of green to the finished dish. For even more color, use leeks instead of onions.
This recipe is from "Jewish Traditional Cooking: Over 150 Nostalgic & Contemporary Recipes," by Ruth Joseph and Simon Round (Kyle Books, $29.95).
Makes 2 loaves
Ingredients: 1 pound whole wheat flour (3½ cups); 2/3 cup wheat germ, plus extra for dusting; ½ cup all-purpose flour; 1¼ cups unprocessed wheat bran; 11/3 cups steel-cut oatmeal; 2 teaspoons brown sugar; 2½ teaspoons baking soda; 1 quart buttermilk
For topping: 2 teaspoons each wheat germ and sesame seeds
Instructions: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. Stir in the buttermilk to make a moist dough. Lightly grease two 2-pound loaf tins and dust them with wheat germ. Divide the dough between the tins, smooth the top and make a cross on each one with a floured knife. Sprinkle with wheat germ and sesame seeds. Place the loaves in the oven for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and bake for 1 hour.
Recipe tester: The loaves are even better baked with nuts and dried fruit. Take two cups of prepared batter and mix in ½ cup whole almonds, ¼ cup or more raw sesame seeds, ¼ cup or more raw sunflower seeds and a generous ½ or more of dried fruit. Bake as directed. When cool, slice and bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes on each side until dry and crunchy.
This recipe is from "Clodagh's Kitchen Diaries," by Clodagh McKenna (Kyle Books, $27.95).