Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Passover Feast with Bubbe Winston

The last time I was in San Francisco, my dear friend Winston had a little surprise in store for me: a preview of a Pesach (Passover) feast!

Knowing I am on my path of conversion to Judaism -- and knowing I don't have a Jewish grandmother of my own to teach me her secret recipe for matzoh ball soup and other Jewish culinary delights -- Winston decided to play bubbe and share his love of Jewish food and culture with me.

Boy, am I a lucky girl. Today, I'm sharing with you almost all of it -- I'll post his amazing flourless dessert tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Bubbe Winston's Pesach/Passover Feast (minus dessert)

Now remember: Passover is the holiday when, according to the wonderful JewFAQ, Jews remove all "chametz (leaven) from our homes. This commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise. It is also a symbolic way of removing the 'puffiness' (arrogance, pride) from our souls."

Because Passover is the commemoration of the Jews' exodus from Egypt and slavery. The word for Egypt in Hebrew is mitzrayim, which also happens to be the word for "the narrow places." So we're contemplating not just the historic exodus from Egypt, but our own personal coming through and out of our own personal narrows. DEEP.

Spring Matzoh Ball Soup

Matzoh Balls
2 eggs
1/4 cup seltzer
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch fresh dill
salt and pepper
1/2 cup whole-wheat matzoh meal

1 quart home-made or store-bought chicken broth
1 boneless, skinned chicken breast
Mix of asparagus, zucchini, carrots, fresh shitakes, fresh ginger, lemon
Salt and pepper

Rinse, stem, and loosely chop dill; reserve some for serving.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until they are pale and frothy. Add seltzer, olive oil, and dill; season and mix well. Add matzoh meal and mix well, cover, and refrigerate at least one hour to overnight.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Oil or wet your hands and form very small, loose ½” balls (they will at least double in size). Gently drop matzoh balls directly into boiling water and cook for 15 minutes or until they all float to the surface. Taste one for doneness. Rinse original bowl, and use slotted spoon to remove matzoh balls and reserve in bowl.

Empty pot and place stock and chicken breast in pot and bring to a boil; lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Thinly slice asparagus diagonally, and thinly julienne zucchini, carrots, shitakes, ginger, and lemon peel. Slice lemon wedges for serving.

Check chicken breast for doneness and remove and cool. Add vegetables and peel to the broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Thinly slice chicken and add with matzoh balls to re-warm briefly and serve with dill garnish and lemon wedges.

Will serve 4-6 people.

Minimalist Latkes
Because these have no eggs or flour, they are also fine for Pesach.

2 large russet potatoes
6 scallion bulbs
1 shallot
salt and pepper
olive oil

Either by hand: grate potatoes, cut scallions into 3” lengths and thinly slice, and peel and thinly slice shallot; or use feeding chute and grating attachment on food processor to grate halved potatoes, 3” lengths of scallion, and peeled shallot.

Season well and mix together in large bowl and let sit for at least half hour to allow potatoes to release their starch—that starch is what holds these latkes together. Heat olive oil at a depth of 1/8” in a cast-iron pan until shimmering. Set oven to 200’ and line an oven-safe platter with parchment paper and paper toweling.

Mix potato mixture again, and use a stainless steel fork to place about a tablespoon of mixture in the oil and use the fork to spread out into a lacy pattern; do not crowd pan. Use spatula and fork together to turn when golden and to transfer to oven until ready to eat. Add oil and heat before adding new mixture. Serve with applesauce and Greek-style yoghurt.

Yields approximately four dozen latkes.


½ head red cabbage (or green, or savoy, or any combination)
1 carrot
1 pear (or apple, peach, mango, papaya, according to season or availability)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Greek-style yoghurt
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon honey

Core and finely slice cabbage, grate carrot, and core and julienne pear. Mix in large bowl, salt and pepper well, and add remaining ingredients and mix. Cover and refrigerate overnight; toss, taste,and adjust before serving.

Don't forget: dessert tomorrow! Yum yum.

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