Sunday, April 20, 2014

Passover-The last gasp

One of the great things about doing so much cooking for so many people over so many days is that the sheer force of meal production gets me to what I think of as cave-man think. You understand the sources of things we take for granted.


I needed to figure out dinner for tonight. The pickled salmon I had put up before the holiday was looking less than appealing. I decided to make a salmon filling to go into rolled  whiting.


I whipped up the salmon, some matza meal, celery eggs and spices in the food processor and  rolled up  the salmon mixture in the whiting.


It looks so cute.


I had left over salmon .So I added more matza meal and  realized that this was actually gefilte fish. I cooked them like matza balls ( drop balls into boiling flavored water and cover, cook covered for 30 minutes).

Thirty minutes later I had salmon gefilte fish. My mother ate them for lunch and was very happy.



I flavored the gefilte fish in a vaguely French way with tarragon and lemon.


I felt deeply connected with the first desperate cook who when faced with feeding a crowd mixed fish with crumbs and vegetables formed balls and boiled them. The gefilte fish is nearly gone, tonight’s rolled stuffed whiting with be served with a tomato soup made wonderful with left over wine from Seder , boiled potatoes ad a green salad We will eat meat balls for the last night of the Holiday. No, they are not yet made. I assume that I will have to make at least one more cake before Passover ends.

Did you ask me how many eggs I used this Passover? I believe that by Tuesday night we will hit 18 dozen. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Food Friday- Made Up Food Edition

On the first afternoon of Passover, I had begun making a lemon cake. the eggs were separated and I started whipping up the yolks and my mixer died. I had nine egg whites in a bowl and my whisk was in the MIA Passover box.

My sister came up with the brilliant idea of borrowing a mixer from a neighbor. I finished mixing the cake put it in the oven and frankly, it looked a bit weird. I realized I needed to bake another cake in case the first cake was a disaster.

I made up an orange almond cake .  It was really good.  We are having guests for Shabbat so I decided to reprise the cake.

Here it is below.
What’s in it? As far as I can recall
Made up Orange Almond Cake
9 egg yolks – beaten until thick and butter colored with a cup of sugar and the rind of one orange and the juice of the same orange
6 egg whites ( I made meringues with the other 3 whites) beaten until stiff with a pinch of salt
gently add the stiffly beaten whites to the yolk mixture
sprinkle about a cup of ground almonds to the batter and gently fold in until well mixed
I poured the batter into a spring-form pan,( but you could use a tube pan if you wish_ and bake at 350 until the cake is done ( pulled away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean) turn cake over until cook -remove to plate
custard topping
in a small saucepan combine a couple of hefty table spoons of  potato starch, a cup of sugar the juice of an orange some orange juice from the fridge and the zest from the orange. Heat while stirring until the mixture boils and becomes clear. spread or pour over cake 9 depending on how thick the mixture is.
I  baked the meringue wreathes on the bottom of the spring form pan on parchment paper. when they cooled I peeled them off the paper and added them to the cake.  It looks cute. You could also top the cake with fresh berries.
I have been making a pot of Matza Brei each morning for breakfast. Tomorrow is shabbat my older son whop thinks about food a great deal asked me what breakfast would be tomorrow morning.
I needed to make something that could be eaten cold and would be something that my youngest would eat as well.

So I made this.
It’s a breakfast lasagna.  Like many Passover food items it’s a combination of matza milk eggs and cheese think lasagna but slightly sweet. The cheese layer is plops of cottage cheese. The lasagna is flavored with cinnamon, orange peel, orange juice and is enhanced with milk, raisins and some sugar and maple syrup.
Our sedarim were wonderful. When I’m less tired, I will tell you about them.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Moving right along

The last of the 7.5 dozen eggs I purchased on Monday.


The eggs went into

  • matza brei
  • pancakes
  • cheese latkes
  • the failed meringue
  • the failed custards ( orange and chocolate)
  • the successful meringue shell
  • the successful chocolate custard
  • matza balls

and this cake. My nephew is nut  allergic and is coming to the first Seder.  I have been faking (improvising) a sponge cake out of the left over egg yolks from making meringues. I had lots of yolks so faked a lemony sponge cake.


I thought it would look cute topped with a lemon custard and teeny meringue stars. I piped the meringue into the bottom of the same spring form pan I had used to bake the cake  on a lining of parchment paper.

I topped the cake with the custard and then added the meringue border.


I had even created a center medallion.


Tomorrow night I will add blackberries to the top of the cake.

Baking With Ghosts

Every holiday has it's traditional foods. The Passover Seder in particular is a meal where you don't want a whole lot of innovation, you want to eat the familiar, the food that you ate as a child.

My mother came into her marriage knowing how to make scrambled eggs, tuna fish salad and Jello. As I have mentioned before, my grandmother was a famously terrible cook. My mother didn't grow up with a sense of how to cook. 

All that was to change because within a few weeks of their wedding my parents moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. My father was the rabbi of Shaar Shalom , my mother was to teach Hebrew school. While living in the hinterlands of the Jewish world had it's disadvantages, it also had some distinct advantages.

There was nearly no Kosher for Passover packaged good available. That meant that people cooked and baked everything. If my parents had lived in Brooklyn, my mother would have just picked up a couple of Passover cakes in a local store. My mother instead learned how to bake.
An improvised lemon sponge cake that I could make because I baked and my mother's elbows for so many years.

Most of the Jewish community in Halifax came from Lithuania. Many of those women were superb cooks and bakers.  In that pre-broadcast TV era, people threw lots of dinner parties. My parents were new to town. no one had heard their stories before, so they were frequent dinner guests in the community.

My mother may not have known how to cook, but she did know how to eat. When she would eat something particularly delicious she would ask the hostess to teach her how to make the dish. this is how my mother learned how to cook.

My mother was always an earnest student. She would often ask us to help her as she baked. As she did each task she would repeat the useful words of advice her Haligonian cooking teachers had told her in the mid 1950's. 

Beat the egg yolks until they are thick and lemon colored
Beat the egg whites until they are glossy and hold a peak. 
Be gentle with egg-whites. 
A bit of coffee deepens the flavor of chocolate. 
Use the butter wrapper to grease a pan.

I realize as I bake  every  Passover I hear the voices not only of my mother who is no longer able to bake, but also the voices of my mother's teachers who are all long dead. Those Haligonian women are my baking bubbies. 

A few years ago Shaar Shalom in Halifax celebrated it's 50th anniversary. They put together a wonderful community cookbook as part of the celebration. It is one of the best community cookbooks I have ever come across. The recipes are terrific  and are truly of the place . The book is light on recipes that are copied from ladies magazines and heavy on old family recipes and Maritime specialties. An added bonus is bit of family lore, and Shaar Shalom history as well as photographs. You can probably purchase a copy  here through the  Shaar Shalom website.

 I often use this cookbook when I do holiday cooking. My mother's recipes are there along with those of her teachers. Even though my parents only spent four years in Halifax it is the place that formed them. I love that when I want to bake my mother's Pesach cakes, this is where I have to turn.

Halifax so informs my cooking that when I served my Halifax born buddy stuffed cabbage and tzimmis she knew whose food I was cooking. I didn't know whose I was cooking, just that it was delicious. In case you are a reader from Halifax, it's the Paschal's Tzimmis and stuffed cabbage. 

The cake you see here is not Haligonian, but comes from Quincy comes from Mildred Jacobs's sister in law who didn't eat gebruchts, food made with dampened matza products. Mildred was a famously good cook. She grew up on a dairy farm in Millis, Massachusetts. We always eat this cake for the first night of Pesach.

Mrs. Mael's No Gebruchts Chocolate Cake
pre heat oven to 325
9 eggs separated
beat yolks with one cup sugar until thick and  the color of butter
stir in 8 oz melted bittersweet chocolate
stir in 2 cups chopped walnuts
beat egg whites until stiff  ( if you add a pinch of salt they will beat up better)
gently fold egg-whites into chocolate /nut mixture
pur into a tube pan and bake for an hour
invert pan until cooked and remove cake to plate

Friday, April 11, 2014

The tale of a disaster

Today is my older son’s birthday. He does not like having the usual Passover cake as a birthday cake. 
( Not that I blame him.) tonight we are going to a friend’s home for Shabbat dinner.  Our friend had a son who had died who shared a birthday with  my older son.  Every year our friend takes our son out for a meal for his birthday. It is a sweet, sweet bond between our son and our dear friend.


Our friend’s house has not yet been changed over for Passover. She is serving our challot which we had brought over earlier in the week. I had thought that I could make a meringue tart shell and fill it with custard for dessert. My son signed on to the idea.


I made the tart shell and baked it.


I made two custards a couple of days ago, I made an orange custard and a chocolate one. They were both delicious.

As soon as I filled the tart shell I realized that things were not going well.


I hadn’t bakes the meringue for long enough. The custard melted the shell.


Things went from bad to worse.


We snacked one some and gave the rest away.


I made a new custard ( orange scented chocolate) and am baking another meringue shell.


I am leaving this shell in the oven as long as I can. I will fill it at our friend’s house. I even got berries to top  the tart. Hopefully this one will work.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tonight’s dinner

With all of the food prep going on for Passover it’s sometimes hard to also plan for meals to eat now.

This is what we ate for dinner tonight.  I warmed up the smallest quart bag of soup. I added a chopped tomato and the meat from the lamb shank I cooked for the Seder plate. The matza balls were good. SAM_2168

My son is getting up early tomorrow so I made him some matza rolls to take along for breakfast.


Today I cooked four chickens and three briskets. I made a no nut charoset for my nut allergic  nephew and some fruit and nut balls for dessert.


Tomorrow I’m baking cakes.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A day of cooking

One of the big principles of telling the Passover story  is that you begin  with the bad stuff and end with the glory. That is you begin with the story of slavery and idol worship and end with redemption and the promise of Sinai.

Today, my cooking did not follow the story line of the Haggadah. My first cooking task was the easiest one. I made apricot balls. They will be a nice addition to the dessert plate.



You want to make some too? I don’t blame you.  Throw a bunch of dried apricots into a food processor. I used a mix of sour California apricots and the sweeter Turkish ones.  I added a bunch of almonds and squeezed in the juice of a lemon. I then pulsed the apricots and nuts until they were a nice chunky puree.

I then spread some coconut, sugar and potato starch on a plate. I put some cold water in a bowl  to keep my hands damp and made the balls and then rolled them in the coconut mixture. If I had a pre- schooler hanging around the house I would give them the job of making the balls.


They are now sitting in a plastic bag in the freezer.

I then  made two small slabs of meat ( coffee and spice rub, sliced onions and diced tomatoes in the pan, cooked until dead).


After the meat was cooked and cooled I sliced it up. I then added a can of tomato paste, some vinegar and some honey  and spices to the pan juices and cooked until reduced to a nice syrupy gravy. I packed the whole thing into a bag and now it’s living in my freezer until Seder.SAM_2166

My next task was the hardest, straining the soup. I made the job somewhat easier by leaving all of the vegetables whole.

I often make chicken soup for my family. I usually  serve it with the bones and the vegetables I refer to it as “ soup with stuff”. It tastes great but is an unrefined eating experience. One does not serve “soup with stuff” to elegant company.


Passover I make chicken soup like my father did. that involves straining the soup and then squeezing out every bit of goodness from the bones and vegetables so al you are left with is a bunch of cellulose.


This year I used a bit of technology to help me.


This potato masher was probably purchased in 1954. I mashed the vegetables onto the tea towel lined strainer that is sitting over a  large soup pot. Then I squeeze the contents of the towel until it looks like the contents of an industrial dish machine.


For those of you not lucky enough to wash dishes in college, like I did this looks like what collects in the trap of an industrial dish machine after several hundred people eat dinner.


You should note that this stuff is hot, even after a few hours with the flame off. I have several blisters on my hands.


This is what the beautiful strained soup looks like.


I am SORE, but this is waiting in my freezer.


One more quart is not pictured. It seems a small and sad amount of soup after two days labor.


I also made chicken latkes with home made ketchup from the boiled chicken in the soup for tonight’s dinner.



They got mixed reviews. I do have ideas about perfecting the ketchup though.