Effi’s Turkey or Chicken Tagine

IMG_2342Imagine sitting in a dimly lit room, when suddenly a stranger walks in, throws open the curtains and turns on the light.  Those two small gestures can alter the scene.  That’s what I experienced this week when Effi joined our staff.  A petite Israeli woman, of Moroccan descent, our conversation quickly turned to food.  I told her that I was heading East for Passover, and that we were having a traditional Ashkenazi Seder, but as I stood there speaking, I already knew that change was in the air, that things were about to shift.  Effi talked about her traditional dishes, some of which I would not be able to make, dishes with rice and corn and peas, dishes made with lamb cooked over low heat for several hours. There was more, and just a few minutes later I walked away with recipes for a Moroccan beet salad, a variation of Matbucha, and a delicious tagine made with dried fruit and a touch of cinnamon.   Effi told me that she serves sweet dishes for a sweet Passover.  That’s where the differences ended, and the essence of what we both wanted for Passover converged.  Wishing you a Zisn Pesach.

Effi’s Turkey or Chicken Tagine

2 Tb olive oil and more as needed

3 lbs. chicken or turkey thighs, cubed

3 large brown onions, cut in half and thinly sliced

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup dried prunes

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 Tb chicken bouillion

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp cumin

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a  heavy bottomed pot, brown turkey thigh in 2 Tb. olive oil, sprinkling generously with salt and pepper.   Once turkey meat is golden, remove to plate along with any liquid that accumulated on the bottom of the pot.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil and all the sliced onions to pot.  Add 1/2 tsp sugar and saute onions till dark golden brown.  Remove half the sautéed onions to a plate.  Scatter half of the apricots and prunes on top of the onions.  Place turkey meat back into the pot.  Add remaining apricots and prunes and then top with remaining onions.  In a small bowl combine warm water with salt, pepper, cumin, chicken powder and cinnamon.  Stir well and pour over meat.  Cover pot and place in oven for 2-3 hours.  Serves 4-6

Note: Effi said that sometimes she adds walnut halves on top of the first layer of walnuts.

Enjoy,

Irene

Beet and Blood Orange Salad

IMG_2186I grew up hearing stories of my grandmothers and their preparations for Passover, most of which began way in advance of the holiday.  The walls had to be whitewashed, the geese had to be slaughtered and the goose fat rendered, and the down pillows were opened so that the feathers could be cleaned and re-stuffed into new ticking.  Then there was the shopping and cooking.  With large families, and no take-out or prepared foods available, everything was made at home.  I was told that my maternal grandmother baked an enormous sponge-cake every morning,  made with 12 dozen eggs, a cake large enough so everyone could have a piece for breakfast.  I wish I knew my grandmothers, these women who worked tirelessly to keep their traditions and whose efforts made lasting impressions on their children and on the grandchildren they never had the chance to meet.

I think of my mother’s preparations for Passover and wonder how much she was influenced by her own childhood experiences.  I think of my children and wonder if there are pieces they will choose to keep from their childhood.  Do they remember that the glass dishes soaked in the bathtub for days, that they were made to clean their dresser drawers while keeping an eye out for pieces of gum or candy that might have been missed.  That the trunk of the car was loaded with all the cutlery, pots and pans that had to be toivled at the synagogue and then driven to the car wash so that the back seats could be lifted and vacuumed?  Or my personal favorite which was hiding the chametz around the house and searching for it by candlelight?

I too am starting to think of Passover and I remember specific foods that my mother always had on hand during the holidays.  Home-made beet borscht for one, the cold version that had sour cream mixed in which turned it into the color of bubble gum, but which I never did acquire a taste for.  When I met my friend Susan T., I discovered a meat version of beet borscht, made with short ribs and served piping hot with a generous dollop of mashed potatoes mixed with fried onions, heaped in the center of the soup bowl and suddenly I discovered how good beets could be.  Eventually there were other preparations that I now love, like beets paired with goat cheese and walnuts, or simply roasted and drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar.

I wish my grandmothers had lived to see how Passover is observed in the homes of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I imagine that they would shep naches knowing that their descendents make an effort to get together for the seders, that we care enough to argue over issues like kitniyot, that we have dishes like beet salad whose ingredients they would still recognize as being familiar, and that no matter how many of us there are, we make sure there is enough cake so that everyone can have a piece for breakfast.

Beet and Blood Orange Salad

5 medium beets, use a combination of red, orange, and yellow.

Dressing

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced, placed in cold water for 1 minute and squeezed out.

5 blood oranges, peeled, and segmented

1 cup pomegranate seeds
This is how the produce man at the farmer’s market suggested that I prepare the beets.  Take a thin slice off the top and bottom of each beet and then place beets in a pot with enough water to cover.  Bring water to a boil, lower heat to medium, and cook beets until they can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.  Cool just enough to be able to handle beets and then peel by rubbing skin off with your fingers.  The skin will easily fall off.
Cut beets into 1/3-inch-thick wedges and place in a large bowl with orange segments and onion. Top with pomegranate seeds. Whisk orange juice, pomegranate molasses, vinegar, and olive oil.  Dress salad and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4-6
Enjoy,
Irene