You know a year has passed when the holidays are upon us. It’s Passover, the annual commemoration of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. I prepared in my usual way: review filed recipes and peruse my cookbooks. I also prepared in the new way many of us find ourselves following – zoom cooking. Here’s a sample of the zoom rooms I entered in the last two weeks.
Home cooks from Seattle’s Congregation Ezra Bessaroth generously invited viewers into their kitchens for pre-Pesach cooking lessons. Sharon Adatto’s contribution was peshcado con huevo y limon con tomat or fish with egg, lemon, and tomato – remember the Sephardic Jews brought Judeo-Spanish with them in exile to the Eastern Mediterranean many, many years ago and more recently to Seattle. In fact, the University of Washington has been working hard to document and preserve this amazing language. Since Sharon lives in Seattle, her fish of choice is the amazing salmon. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkbcbHokjMA&list=PLR475oU6k90x-LPKP7RCZPQBWPobF-syJ&index=2)
Terry Azose returned for a second demonstration, this time her mother-in-law’s megina (a meat matzah casserole of sorts) and almond cake (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pufjDKNXEDQ&list=PLR475oU6k90x-LPKP7RCZPQBWPobF-syJ&index=1). I added the almond cake to my repertoire this year, thank you very much.
A zoom from the Folkshul in Philadelphia focused on Tunisian traditions with banatages or bontaj, a meat and potato croquette. It looked interesting and tasty. Here’s their general website – https://www.folkshul.org/.
Helene Jawhara-Piner, chef/scholar researching the food of the Jews in Iberia pre-Inquisition, has been hosting a series of Sephardic Culinary History presented by the American Sephardi Federation (https://americansephardi.org/projects/sephardic-culinary-history/), during our isolation. Her interpretation was a fish dish with matzoth made with corn flour (some Sephardic Jews eat corn during Pesach) that stood out in the records of the Inquisition trials in Mexico. The finished product looked suspiciously like fish tacos popular in so many Mexican restaurants in the US.
Especially interesting was Kitchen Explorations (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUt4715FSUA) sponsored by the Jewish Arts Collaborative. Boston chef Michael Leviton cooked three Ashkenazi using heritage recipes from the archives of the Jewish Heritage Center at the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
Then there was the cookoff between Ashkenazi potato kugel and Sephardic quejado presented by the Marlene Meyerson JCC, Manhattan, the Streicker Center’s 4-day demonstrations (https://streicker.nyc/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Passover-Recipes_all.pdf), Sephardic singer Sarah Aroeste’s recipe and songs (saraharoeste.com Passover recipe & songs), and more. I watched a lot and … in the end, I stuck with what I’ve done in the past with some additions (see 9 May 2020 post)!
As usual, it’s a two-day cooking process. Day one included making my Sephardic huevos haminados: nestle the eggs in onion skins, bring to a boil, cover and let sit at least 10 minutes.
Haroset* (my mother’s recipe): apple peeled and chopped, one half of an orange peel and all, walnuts, raisins soaked in Passover wine, and a bit more wine. Throw into the food processor til a nice smooth mixture.
*Numerous zooms presented even more numerous recipes for this required dish on the seder table; I stick to the family recipe.
Chopped liver: don’t ask why, I use beef liver, sautéed with onions and garlic, then into the food processor with duck fat, delicious. Constant Companion particularly enjoys it as an accompaniment for matzah.
Soup this year was Greek avgoloumeno instead of matzah ball soup.* And, as usual I did my best to temper and stir in the egg and it curdled. The flavor was great, it did not look so appetizing. Actually, this soup reminded me of the time we went to a neighbor’s for seder. I offered to bring carrot soup; I’d just made a nice one. Of course the recipe was nowhere to be found (been there, done that) and I improvised. Daughter, in middle school at the time, was the only one to bravely eat it. I was so proud of her!
*Recent tip circulating on zoom: freeze your vegetable trimmings for the next time you make soup … makes great vegetable broth.
In place of gefilte fish, I made a Sephardic mina using a recipe from cookbook author Leah Konig (https://www.bhg.com/recipe/mina-matzo-pie-with-spinach-and-leeks/). It was ok, not as good as that made by the Sephardic cooks whose seders I enjoyed while growing up.
Another side dish was a tried and true old recipe for eggplant kugel from Family Circle, 1991 (https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/eggplant-green-pepper-kugel).
Day One cooking marathon was ended by cooking Terry Azose’s almond cake.
Day Two was not so busy. Our main course was a baked branzino (last year’s main course, too), this time with a chimichurri sauce and the quintessential springtime vegetable, steamed asparagus.
Of course, as usual, two days of cooking led to two nights of eating around our seder table.
I did glean some additional new recipes from the various zoom rooms that I want to try during the coming week of Passover – once we get through our delicious leftovers. And so, as usual, next year in Jerusalem; surely, next year with company in good health!