Well, it’s the 15th day of the month of Nissan (for those lunatics who have only 28 fingers and toes) and the time has come to retell the story of the Exodus. But that’s not what this post is about, but rather the food we’ve elected to cook. A number of years ago as a present for my wife, I collated all the scraps of paper she had collected over the years (torn from newspapers, traded with my grandmother, photocopied from arcane sources, etc.) which had traditional Passover recipes and made her a cookbook out of them (about 200 pages). I admit to cheating a bit by using a scanner and OCR software to reduce the typing, but the job took quite a while. Anyhow, I still catch her using the deteriorating scraps of paper rather than the book (should have burned them :-). Anyhow, each year we argue and negotiate over which will be used (she likes tried and true favorites and I like to try something different – might flop and might wow. Anyhow, she won and all of these have been made multiple times and all are hard to get wrong.The following post is this year’s ad hock collection of traditional food which reflects the schizoid history of the Jews. Some of the food is Ashkenazi, stemming from central and eastern Europe and some is Sephardic stemming from the Jews exiled from Spain in 1492 and who live in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. And the third half is from the pallet of the “Oriental” Jews who come from the area of the old Caliphates and the Persian Empire.The annual Seder meals have been held for thousands of year and the various recipes have been developed all over the diaspora starting with the Babylonian exile, so, while they are traditional, the traditions shift depending on the area of the world where each dish was developed.Yesterday, Tim sent me a video clip which reinforces this. It brought to mind that, about a year and a half ago, I was lucky enough to be able to get to stand in front of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” while in Milan, Italy, and wondered how many viewers consciously realized it was a Jewish Passover Seder meal? How many realized that the very name of the holiday in Hebrew of Pesach (directly translated into English as the adjective “Paschal”) is the root of the word for Easter in most languages (Danish "Påske", Spanish "Pascua", Italian "Pasqua", for example). Our English word “Easter” is a German anomaly as it’s root is “Oster” or “East” in German referring to the direction of Jerusalem. Tim’s clip just shows we are more alike than many care to admit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APMu32sC2nMPart of the challenge of Passover recipes stems from the (universal) traditional prohibition of using flour, bread or grain products with the exception of matzo, a crisp flatbread which looks like cardboard but has less taste. Like planks of plywood, matzo is a tasteless, but effective building material used to construct some dishes. It can be broken into pieces called farfel (think of the consistency as wood chips) or ground into meal which can be thought of as bread crumbs made from communion crackers (or, in this context, sawdust). Similarly, potato starch is used instead of corn starch, and other oils for corn oil. In theory, milk and meat products should not be used in the same meal, so using butter or milk in foods served at dinner is also not permitted. Similarly, margarine (or, for those less interested in premature heart disease, rendered chicken fat called schmaltz) is favored over butter if the dish is served along side of meat (but sometimes I forget those ?).There are an awful lot of dishes here, but they are going to be divvied up and eaten over the period of a week (the freezer and fridge are now full of portion-sized containers). There is also gefilte fish (a cold fish cutlet), but preparing that involved opening a jar but it was accompanied with grated fresh horseradish mixed with a bit of cooked beets. While our kitchen is small and our stove rinky-dink, we planned the order of the dishes to match oven temperatures and move smoothly from mise en place to dish and the whole menu of around eight food and desert items were able to be cranked out in a bit over three hours. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to lay out all the ingredients for a dish before you begin so nothing gets omitted. We used three measuring cups, a triple oven timer, four mixing bowls, a food processor and a KitchenAid hand beater (nothing required the big gun).The only thing we left to do at the last minute (today) was to make the two haroset versions and to make the matzo balls from the “batter” (made during our frenzy and sitting in the refrigerator).The chicken that was involved in the soup became chicken salad, chopped up with scallion, red bell pepper, black pepper, mayonnaise and chopped Moroccan preserved lemons (recipe previously posted here.The only “ecclesiastical” dish here is haroset, a formulary “marmalade” (sort of) made to represent the mortar used to glue bricks together and we made the Ashkenazi version that our families used over the years as well as a Sephardic version as a contract. It’s generally eaten on a piece of matzoThe last recipe is what’s being planned for tomorrow’s breakfast. A matzo brie is more a tortilla than a soufflé, but is generally served topped with fruit preserves or honey or sugar. It’s better than it sounds.If anyone is interested in a PDF of the originals of these, send me aa message off-list and I’ll make one up.JeffSo, what’s for dinner?Ashkenazi HarosetSephardic Style Charoset Chicken Soup - Jewish PenicillinMatzo Balls - what they sound like (if made right, they should be a bit fluffyBrisket with Dried Apricots, Prunes, and Aromatic Spices - we found using chopped preserved lemons worked with thisPotato Kugel - a large baked potato pancake type thingEasy Tzimmes - a sweet potato/carrot dish (also Yiddish slang for unnecessarily “making a big deal” out of something)Broccoli Soufflé – OK, not a soufflé and contains a bouillon cube, but tastes greatThe following three dishes are “backups”. They are both great, we have the ingredients, but we’ve run out of space to store anything else, so they may not make the cut over the next week, but you might enjoy them anyway:Brussel Sprouts with Apricot and PistachiosCarrot RingPotato Kugel MuffinsDessert:Passover Mandelbrot - let's call them biscottiGrandma's Coconut Macaroons - addictiveFlourless Chocolate CakeBreakfastMrs. Kerrigan's Matzo Brie (as modified by SWMBO)And it begins:Ashkenazi HarosetMakes 2 1/3 cups 3 medium-size crisp sweet or tart apples, or a combination, peeled, cored and cut into eighths1 cup pecans or walnuts, or a combination, toasted 2 tablespoons sweet red wine3 tablespoons honey1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1. Place the apples in a food processor and process until chopped. Transfer them to a mixing bowl.2. Place the pecans in the food processor and chop them. Add them to the apples, and stir in the wine, honey, and cinnamon.3. This is best served the day it’s made, but it will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (the nuts will soften after the first day). Sephardic Style Haroset Ingredients 1/2 cup dates, chopped1 cup apples, chopped1/2 cup raisons (optional)1/2 cup walnuts, chopped1/2 cup almonds, chopped1/8 teaspoon pepper1 teaspoon cinnamon1/2 teaspoon ginger2 tablespoons sweet red wine Preparation Combine and refrigerate.Spread on Matzo with romaine lettuceMakes 2 1/2 cupsChicken SoupWhile my grandmother used to make chicken soup with the feet, giblets and baby eggs, the following is a modern version which tastes about the same1 4-5 pound Chicken, quartered or in eighths2-3 medium sized carrots sliced on a bias1 medium onion 2-3 stalks celery sliced on a bias1 parsnip sliced on a bias1 diced turnip (optional)Salt to taste 3-4 quarts cold water (depending how big your pot is)1/2 bunch fresh dill tops4 sprigs parsleyCover chicken with water, drain and scrape skin clean. Rinse well in cool water. In clean pot, cover and bring about 4 quarts to a boil and place chicken in the water.. Add vegetables and seasoning, cover and bring to a simmer. SkimCover and vent, reducing heat to keep simmering (not boiling) about 90 minutes or until chicken is tender. Skim occasionally.Taste for salt correction during cooking. When cool, drain soup from chicken. Strain soup through fine strainer.Chicken may be used for dishes calling for cooked chicken. Serve soup with kneidlach (matzo balls), croutons or egg noodles which have been cooked and drained separately. Serves 8. Matzo Balls4 eggs 1/2 cups water (or preferably, chicken stock)1 cup matzo meal1/3 cup shortening (Rendered chicken fat, or corn oil works well as a substitute for margarine)¼ teaspoon baking soda (if not Passover)1 teaspoon saltDash of pepperNOTE: make sure your pot is wide enough that they will not crowd when they expand as they may get nearly as large as a tennis ball and if crowded will have the constancy of golf balls. Batter for making the balls may be made a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator.Beat eggs. Add water, shortening, salt, pepper, matzo meal: Mix and refrigerate covered overnightBring a pot of water to a boil. Rinse hands with cold water (so matzo balls won’t stick) and make small balls (about the size of a ping pong ball). Drop them into the water. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes for al dente, a bit longer for lighter. Makes 11Brisket with Dried Apricots, Prunes, and Aromatic Spices Ingredients 2/3 cup quartered dried apricots (about 4 ozs.)9 large garlic cloves3 1/2 tsps. ground cumin1 tsp. salt1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon1/4 tsp. ground black pepper1 4 1/2- to 5-lb. flat-cut beef brisket3 tbsps. olive oil4 cups chopped onions2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped1 tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger1 tsp. ground coriander1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper1 cup dry red wine3 cups homemade beef stock or canned low-salt beef broth2/3 cup pitted prunes, quarteredChopped fresh cilantroDescriptionMake this at least one day ahead (and refrigerate) to allow flavors to infuse meat. Make sure to check prunes and apricots for insects where applicable.Combine 1/3 cup apricots, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tsp. cumin, salt, cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. pepper in processor. Using on/off turns, chop to coarse puree. Using small sharp knife, make 1/2-inch-deep slits all over brisket. Set aside 1 tbsp. apricot mixture. Press remaining apricot mixture into slits. NOTE: The following instructions assumes that you will be roasting this in the oven, but I usually cook it in a heavy cast Dutch oven (big covered pot) on the stove.Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 300° F. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle brisket all over with salt and pepper. Add brisket to pot and Sauté until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate, fat side up; spread with reserved 1 tbsp. apricot mixture. Add onions to same pot. Sauté over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Add carrots, ginger, coriander, cayenne pepper, remaining 6 garlic cloves and 2 1/2 tsps. cumin; Sauté 3 minutes. Add wine and boil until reduced almost to glaze, stirring up any browned bits, about 5 minutes. Return brisket to pot. Add stock and bring to simmer. Spoon some of the vegetable mixture over brisket. Cover pot and place in oven. Roast brisket 2 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes with pan juices. Add prunes and remaining 1/3 cup apricots. Cover; roast until brisket is tender, about 30 minutes longer. Cool brisket uncovered 1 hour. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled overnight. Spoon off any solid fat from top of gravy; discard fat. Scrape gravy off brisket into pot. Place brisket on work surface. Slice brisket thinly across grain. Bring gravy in pot to boil over medium-high heat. Boil to thicken slightly, if desired. Season gravy with salt and pepper. Arrange sliced brisket in large ovenproof dish. Spoon gravy over. Cover with foil. (Can be made 2 days ahead; refrigerate.)Re-warm covered brisket in 350°F oven about 30 minutes (or 40 minutes if chilled). Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. - Makes 8 servings. Potato Kugel5 medium raw potatoes, peeled (2 ½ pounds)1 large onion1 teaspoon Salt ¼ teaspoon pepper1/2 cup salad oil or 1/8 cup olive oil3 eggs, beatenl/2 cup matzo meal or 3 Tablespoons potato starchGrate potatoes and onion (I use grating blade at top of my food processor). Drain off most of liquid; add seasoning. Heat oil, and when hot, add immediately to potatoes, stirring until thoroughly blended. Beat in eggs and matzo meal. Place in a 9 x 9 x 2" (double recipe for 9x13 baking pan, generously greased, and bake in a 400° oven for about 60-70 minutes or until done. Pudding should have a brown crust and edges should stand away from pan. Easy TzimmesIngredients2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks4 large carrots, peeled and cut on a bias into 1/4-inch disks1/2 cup dried apricots cut in half1/2 cup pitted prunes cut in half1/2 cup golden raisins1/2 teaspoon ground ginger1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamonorange juicehoneySunflower or pumpkin seeds (optional)PreparationPreheat oven to 375 degrees F.Oil the inside of an oven-proof casserole dish or baking pan. Pour enough orange juice over mixture to cover the bottom with 1/4 inch of juiceMix sweet potatoes, carrots, fruit and spices in casserole, spooning some of the orange juice over them Drizzle honey over mixture, varying the amount depending on how sweet you like it. Pour enough orange juice over mixture to cover the bottom with 1/4 inch of juice. Cover casserole tightly and bake for 1-1/2 hours.If you like, you can sprinkle some seeds on top before service (but that’s just icing on the cake and not really required)Serves 8.Broccoli Soufflé(This is not a souffle, but more like a quiche, but name change has been vetoed by a higher authority)2 10 oz. pkg. of frozen chopped broccoli 1 packet MBT dry vegetable broth or bouillon powder 1 ½ Tablespoon margarine1 ½ Tablespoon potato starch (flour if not pasach)½ cup milk (or parve milk) ½ cup mayonnaise1 Tablespoon dry onion soup mix3 eggs (separated, well beaten and recombined)Matzo meal (Corn flake crumbs if not pasach)Cook the 2 packages of broccoli in required water with the packet of MBT broth (dry) in. NOTE: If all you can find are broccoli florets, then after cooking, run them through the “slicing” blade of a food processor (don’t use the main blade or it will destroy the texture). Combine margarine, flour and milk in a medium saucepan. Simmer gently until thick. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients except crumbs. Grease a glass ovenproof pie dish or casserole and sprinkle with a thin layer of the crumbs. Mix broccoli with the sauce and pour into casserole. Top with another layer of crumbs. Bake (covered) at 350° for 40-45 minutes. Brussel Sprouts with Apricot and Pistachios1-1/2 lbs, Brussel sprouts, stems trimmed 2 Tbs. olive oil1/2 tsp kosher salt1/3 c shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped 1/4 c dried apricots, finely diced Bring large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Remove any damaged outer leaves from Brussel sprouts and slice sprouts in half through the stem. Add to boiling water and cook till just tender,3 mins; drain (If making ahead, cool sprouts in ice water, drain and store, wrapped, in the fridge until ready to use.). Heat olive oil in large non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add sprouts and salt; cook, turning occasionally, until sprouts are golden around the edges and heated through, 5 to 6 mins(7 min if you blanched earlier). Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with apricots and pistachios.Save time by blanching Brussel sprouts up to 2 days before making. 7 minutes to make. Serves 6-8Carrot Ring1/4 cup margarine1/2 cup matzo meal3 tablespoon potato starch1/2 cup wine1 lb. carrots (about 7) pealed & grated1/4 cup raisins1/2 cup sugar1 teaspoon cinnamon1 egg1/2 teaspoon saltPreheat oven to 350 degrees (F)Grease pan with margarineCream 1/4 cup margarine and matzo meal togetherDissolve potato starch in wine and add to margarine and matzo mealAdd rest of ingredients and put into ring pan or casserole dishBake 1 hourPotato Kugel Muffins12 oz. pared potatoes, grated1 cup grated zucchini (1 large zucchini)1 cup grated carrots (50gm, 1.8 oz, about 1 ½ medium carrots)3 large (4 medium) eggs, slightly beaten2 oz. diced onions (about ½ small onion)1/4 cup matzo meal1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oilWhite pepper to tastePreheat oven to 375o F (190o C)Place grated potatoes in strainerSqueeze out excess moisture with back of spoonTransfer potatoes to bowlRepeat process with zucchini, adding them to potatoesAdd carrots, eggs, onion, matzo meal and oilSeason with pepper. Stir to combine.Divide mixture evenly into 8 cups of a non-stick muffin pan.Bake 45 minutes or until well browned Passover Mandelbrot1/2 cup oil 1 cup sugar 4 eggs 1 1/2 cups cake meal 1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped – 60 gram/2 oz. (add chocolate chips as well, if desired)6 Tablespoon potato starch 1 teaspoon salt2 teaspoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)Cinnamon, sugar for topping.Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Spoon on a greased (or silicone pad covered) cookie sheet in 3 inch wide X 8 inch long rolls X 1 inch high slabs or about 1” high in 4 inch wide aluminum baking pans. Bake until light brown – 45 to 60 minutes. Slice into 1/2” – ¾” slices. Lay slices, flat and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Return to oven for 10 minutes. Grandma’s Passover Coconut Macaroons4 egg whites1 Teaspoon vanilla4 Tablespoons cake meal1 Cup sugar (if coconuts are sweetened, reduce to 3 tablespoons) 4 Cups shredded unsweetened coconut (10 0z package)OR6 egg whites1 Teaspoon vanilla5 ½ Tablespoons cake meal1 1/3 Cup sugar (if coconuts are sweetened, reduce to 4 ¼ tablespoons) 5.6 Cups shredded unsweetened coconut (14 0z package)Optionally, give coconut a few whirls in a food processor to chop them into much smaller pieces (without pureeing them) Beat egg whites and vanilla until stiff.Fold in rest of ingredientsBake on un-shiny side of aluminum foil. Use heaping teaspoon of mixture for each macaroon (they don’t spread). Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degreesAfter baked, remove from foil after 5 minutes and allow to continue cooling on a rackFlourless Chocolate Cake From Cokie Roberts, Compliments of Joan Nathan1 Stick unsalted butter or margarine8 ounces (227 grams) bittersweet chocolate5 large eggs – separated¾ cup sugar 1 cup ground almonds (4.2 ounces (120 grams)Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt one stick of unsalted butter (or margarine) and 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in top of a double boiler or microwave. Let cool. Beat 5 large egg yolks with ¾ cup sugar until pale yellow.Mix the egg and chocolate mixtures together, adding a cup of ground almonds. Beat the 5 egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into chocolate mixture. Once your batter is ready, pour it in a springform pan that has been wrapped in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. The best way to do this is place the pan right in the middle of the foil, and then fold it up all around the edges of the pan. You want to be very careful that water cannot sneak inside the foil. Place the springform pan inside some other larger pan (I just use my sauté pan). And then slide it in the oven. Once it’s in there, take a tea pot or measuring cup full of boiling water and very carefully pour the water inside the outer pan so that it creates a “water bath” around the springform pan. You want the water to come about halfway up the sides of the springform. Please be very careful with this part — that water is h-o-t.Pour in filling. Bake 45 to 50 minutes then remove from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes.Remove the pan from the oven, once again being very very careful with that hot water, and set it on a wire rack to cool until it reaches room temperature. Unmold, carefully peel off foil and then place upside down on cake plate, Then pop it in the refrigerator until it has completely cooled. Confectioner's sugar (which is not kosher for Passover) optional. (Granular sugar can be ground in a food processor). Serves 8 to 10Mrs. Kerrigan's Matzo Brie (as modified by SWMBO)From Molly Goldberg Cookbook4 matzos4 eggs½ teaspoons salt (reduced by 1 teaspoon)3 tablespoons shortening (best if half butter, half corn oil)½ teaspoon vanilla (not in original)Variation: For Sweet Version:Substitute for the salt:4 teaspoon sugarAdd an additional ½ teaspoon kosher-for-Passover vanilla4 Dash of ground cinnamonSoak the matzos in cold water for 2 minutes. Drain as much as possible and crumble.Beat the egg whites between ribbon and peaksSeparately, beat egg yolks and salt together in a bowl. Fold the egg yolks into the matzosFold the egg whites into the mixtureHeat the shortening in a 10" (25cm) non-stick skillet. Pour the mixture into it. Fry until brown on both sides (flip over).Serve with a little sugar, jam or maple syrup on top.
Thanks for sharing your Seder recipes, Jeff. I miss our traditional family Seders with 20 people sittng around Grandma and Grandpa's giant mahogany table after I spent hours polishing the special Passover silverware. (You weren't involved in the monumental task of taking the Passover dishes out of the top kitchen cabinet and switching them for the regular dishes.) I miss the grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, many of whom are no longer with us and the rest are scattered hundreds of miles apart. The people were more important than the food and the huge effort of preparing the ceremonial items such as the silver pitcher and bowl for washing the hands.I also prepared several dishes in advance which I do for Shabbos anyway. I made the chicken soup on Wednesday since DH and I got the Moderna Covid shot on Thursday so I expected to be somewhat under the weather. (Which I was but that didn't keep me from cooking for Shabbos.)I made roast chicken, butternut squash, chicken curry with peanut butter, a double recipe of Italian meat sauce, and chicken with peppers. It's easier to celebrate Passover since I eat low carb so I wouldn't be eating bread, noodles, etc. anyway. The only carbs I eat are seeds such as quinoa and lentils.I was frustrated because the apples I bought to use for the charoset were stolen by the squirrels that live in the tree next to the deck, leaving only one. One of the benefits of living in WA State is that I can use the table on the deck as an auxiliary refrigerator during the winter -- but the darn squirrels sometimes steal the food. Now I have only 1 apple and that has tooth marks in it. But it's Shabbos so I can't drive to the store. I think I will cut out the tooth marks and add oranges to plump up the charoset.Wishing you and all METARs who celebrate a very happy Passover. The whole point of Passover is celebrating freedom from slavery, which all people can understand.Wendy
Good news: Everything worked out to expectations :-)PArticularly the brisket pot roast, the mandelbrot (biscotti) and the flourless chocolate cake were great, but I can honestly say I would be happy to make any of them again. BTW, the Haroset (Charoset to some) dishes are variations on a dish which dates back to near biblical times. You can think of it as a marmalade and, in the absence of it would be good on something crispy and unsalted like toast, pita chips or even unsalted nachos. This is the first time I made the Sephardic version (using large dried medjool dates) and I actually prefer it to the toher version (which is the one my family and my wife's family have always made).Enjoy.Jeff
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