April 20, 2008

Food Memories - Passover Edition


This post is a bit of a departure for me, though is there a pattern when one writes so infrequently? Next time I’ll talk about my lunch at Nizza and the chickpea Socco, but for now it’s unleavened thoughts.

Passover dishes, like much of traditional Jewish cooking are not known for being "light" in any sense of the word. Since you can't use flour or leavening agents, baking is especially challenging for this holiday. Macaroons and flourless chocolate cakes are de rigueur. As I'm the de facto baker for family gatherings, a few weeks before the Seders, I made a point of perusing the many food and wine mags in my office – part of my job! - and pulled out a few pages from Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart. Now I'm not really a Martha fan but some of her recipes are quite good. For years I’ve been making my friend Victoria's mom's recipe - a delicious chocolate walnut torte with chopped apples (keeps the cake moist) and a dark chocolate glaze. Many chocoholics in the family! But I wanted to try something different and so this year would regale everyone with “almond lemon torte and fresh strawberry sauce” and “chocolate chocolate chip cookies” (basically a riff on the flourless chocolate cake – you know, stiff egg whites folded in, etc.) To further demonstrate that my repertoire was not limited to sweets – and because the recipe appealed to me and was appropriate for my veggie brother - I also made potato, carrot, and zucchini kugel. The desserts were whipped up on Friday night - after yoga and trips to Whole Foods and my local grocery store. I made the kugel in the morning before heading out to New Jersey on the train. I also schlepped three bottles of wine - Romitorio, my favorite Ruffino wine made from Colorino and Merlot, an Albariño from Rias Baixas (they had been sitting on my desk for weeks in anticipation) and a Moscato d’Asti for dessert. We're not strict so wines don't have to be kosher. No wonder my arms and shoulders are sore today. The kugel was so-so, sour cream and more salt and pepper helped, but it should have been thinner and crisper. I guestimated on the five “8 ounce” potatoes and probably used too many. In cooking, when in doubt, I tend to add more – more chocolate, more cheese, more potatoes... The desserts were yummy and definitely a success.

The traditional Passover dessert is actually a piece of the Afikomen or matzoh that's hidden for the children to find and redeem for a small gift. As my niece and nephew searched, I remembered that my father would often hide it above the folding wooden doors in our den.

My father is really the inspiration for this post. This morning, I decided to cook the leftover potatoes instead of leaving them in the fridge to forget about and throw out weeks from now. I had a couple egg yokes with a bit of white sitting in a mug in the fridge from a botched separating job that I thought I’d have for breakfast. Hash browns would be perfect! I grated the potatoes in the food processor and sautéed the heck out of them with some butter, light olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I also tossed in bits of the leftover kugel. Yes, the kugel. It had good flavor from onions and scallions and gave the potatoes a nice kick. They turned out crunchy and totally delicious! While I was eating them sitting on the floor surrounded by toiletries (don’t ask, trying to figure out how NOT to check my luggage this Thursday and I’m a total product queen), I thought that my father would have loved them – the potatoes that is. Many years ago he owned a liquor store and would work Friday nights. Since he'd get home around 10 pm and didn’t want a big meal, I’d make him eggs or an omelet - he liked them with peas and fried potatoes. My eggs this morning were perfect too, very creamy. He would have approved.

Happy Passover.

1 comment:

Georgianne Fsadni said...

You are upstairs in my Aussie home down under. And I am downstairs rereading your old blogs ... this one is particularly touching. x