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

 

Chicken Schnitzle

 My colleague at work calls them her Divas In Training, the young women who cook with her every Sunday, learning to make the family recipes by her side.  I had a similar experience this Passover when we were joined by young women for almost every holiday meal.  The kitchen was filled with chitchat along with the sound of stainless steel spoons hitting metal pots, of salad dressing being whisked, and of chicken Schnitzle sizzling in hot oil.  My favorite kind of noise, the noise of a busy kitchen.
Once upon a time I too was a young and inexperienced cook and stood in the kitchens of women whose food I enjoyed, so I could learn from them.  It just so happens that this Passover, Schnitzle was served at least 3 or 4 times over the course of the week (some from Fresh Foods Catering in Houston, Texas.)  At one point I was asked to post my recipe for Schnitzle (you can also try the non-Passover version of Schnitzle and see which you prefer) and so this is for “the girls.”
I love the idea that a new generation of women, all busy with their careers, and some with families, still want to take the time to prepare Schnitzle.  It’s like keeping a little part of Passover alive all year long, until it rolls around again.  Just remember to listen for the sizzle.
Chicken Schnitzle

6 chicken cutlets

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup Matzoh Meal

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

Lemon cut in wedges

Place the Schnitzle between sheets of wax paper and pound to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.  Place beaten eggs and matzoh meal in wide bowls.  Season matzoh meal with salt and pepper.  In the meantime heat oil in frying pan.  Dip each cutlet in egg mixture and then in matzoh meal and place on a large plate.  Do not stack.  Test to make sure oil is hot enough.  Dont’ be impatient, this step is really important.  Cook the Schnitzle until golden brown, about  3-4  minutes on each side.  Don’t crowd the pan.  As the cutlets are done, put them on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels.  Serve with lemon wedges.  Serves 3.

Enjoy,

Irene

Judy’s Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce

I had forgotten how beautiful Spring is on the East Coast.  Tulips and Daffodils are everywhere, poking their heads through even the most unwelcoming strips of land, and Golden Forsythia, White Dogwood, and Pink Redbud are all in full bloom.  After having spent hours in the kitchen preparing for Seder, the next day was sunny and warm and we were able to eat lunch outside.  I even managed to fall asleep on the grass, something I had not done in years.  Weather and family aside, we had the pleasure of sharing the holidays with the offspring of our children’s contemporaries.  There were three couples with babies under the age of one, the mothers women who I knew long before they were contemplating motherhood.  One of the babies spent all of Yontif  with us, Raviv, who everyone wanted to hold, each of us vying for his attention and affection.  There was no question that this Passover was different, and Zis, just as we had hoped.

In between the cooking and eating, there were several times when something brought me back to my childhood.  Today as I was walking down the streets of Williamsburg, I suddenly heard people speaking both Yiddish and Polish.  And this afternoon as I sat down to eat my lunch on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I realized that I packed the very same lunch that my mother used to make me, matzoh and salami (my mother’s favorite) a Dr. Brown’s Cream soda and a Passover Rainbow Cookie ( the ones with the almond flavoring and raspberry jam separating the yellow, green, and red layers of cake covered in dark chocolate.)  I thought about the fact that all my daughter wanted for lunch was my friend Judy’s Salmon, and so we prepared it last night.  Maybe she was reminiscing as well.  I hope that your last days of Yontif are filled with good food and the time to reminisce.

Judy’s Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce
I  2-3 lb. salmon fillet
1 stick of butter  (melted)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
1 tsp Dill (dried)
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt the butter and allow to cool.  Mix with the other ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.  Place the salmon fillet on parchment paper.  Spread about half of the sauce mixture on the salmon.  Place in oven for about 20 minutes, checking the thickest part to test if done.  Top of fish will be lightly browned.  Serve fish either hot or at room temperature with the rest of the sauce.  Serves 4-6
Enjoy,
Irene

My Favorite Passover Recipes

Image

Heading to NYC to be with our family but not before sharing a few of my favorite Passover recipes.  If you have a favorite family recipe, please send it in so we can all enjoy.  Family stories welcomed and encouraged!

Marinated Eggplant

Bubelach (Passover Pancakes)

Brownie Meringues

Coconut Macaroons

Imberlach

Matzoh Balls

Matzoh Lasagna

Mushroom Kugel

Passover Pogos

Persian Charoset

Sally’s Moussaka

Chag Sameach and Enjoy,

Irene

Loretta’s Chocolate Chip Mandelbroit

“A living stew of inconsistencies” is how our friend Meyer described himself in a Dvar Torah that he gave several weeks ago.  Many of us are inconsistent in how we practice or observe Judaism, but Passover is a holiday when perfectly rational people behave in irrational ways.  My daughter has repeatedly accused me of being too “machmir” (strict) when it comes to Pesach.

I actually made a decision that this year would be different and I would adopt a come what may attitude.  My plan was to arrive back East and cook, not get involved in the kashering, and only minimally involved in the shopping.  I was doing SO well until tonight when I stopped at Western Kosher on my way home, my excuse being that I wanted to see any new Passover products that came on the market.  I swore that I wouldn’t buy anything, but here I am sitting at the kitchen table writing this post and in front of me there are six shopping bags filled with all kinds of Passover groceries.  Who could resist Masala Chai Tea???   Somehow they will all need to be packed into our luggage along with a tin of our favorite Passover Mandelbroit that I will bake on Sunday.  There are some things that never change, no matter how hard we try.

I wish each and every one of you a Zisn Pesach.

Loretta’s Chocolate Chip Mandelbroit

3 sticks margarine

2 cups sugar plus an extra 4 Tb for sprinkling

6 eggs

2  3/4 cups cake meal

3/4  cup potato starch

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2  12 oz. bags of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Reserve 4 Tb sugar and mix with 2 Tsp cinnamon and set aside.  Cream sugar and margarine.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Add dry ingredients.  Divide dough into 4 equal portions and with oiled hands, form 4 loaves, divided between 2 greased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle each loaf with an equal amount of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Slice loaves and place Mandelbrot cut side up, sprinkling with more cinnamon sugar.  Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes per side or till crisp.

Enjoy,

Irene

Marisha’s Veal Roast

It is an unfortunate truth that extended family members may only get together for life cycle events, both happy and sad.  Two weeks ago many members of the Graf family came to Philadelphia, and as a result I was able to spend time with my Tante Marisha.  Marisha is now the matriarch of the family, the only person still alive of my father’s generation, and she looks great.   She and my Uncle Charlie met in Poland during the war, moved to France after the war, and then eventually settled in Lakewood, New Jersey, where I spent much of my childhood visiting them and my cousins.  I reminded my aunt that she use to call me “princess” and she reminded me that she would take me to the “market’  to help her sell hats.

Marisha arrived in Philadelphia with her sons, daughters-in-law, her eldest grandson and his wife.  Both my cousin Michel and I named our middle children David, after our fathers’ brother who died during the war.  I watched these two Davids, second cousins, both grown men, both married, both serious and both learned, talking to each other, and I was filled with a sense of continuity.  Wherever I looked, cousins were conversing and getting to know each other.  There was talk of cars, horses, gardening, art and architecture, and I was feeling strangely content despite the overwhelming sadness of the occasion.  I realize that it may be years before all the cousins get together again, and hopefully next time it will be for a happy event, but I was sure that the three brothers, Jack, Charley and Harry knew we were there, together, under one roof, for a brief time.

At one point my daughter and I were sitting with Tante Marisha when the conversation turned to food.  My aunt told us that her grandchildrens’ favorite dish is veal roast, and related that she prepares it in the same way she and my mother prepared chicken and turkey, coated with a simple mixture of minced garlic, salt and pepper, and baked till golden and tender.  I couldn’t wait to come home and make it, knowing that I would feel as if I had a bit of Marisha with me, but also wanting to preserve another recipe, and another memory, for another generation.
Marisha’s Veal Roast
8 lb Veal Roast, bones left in
10 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tb salt
1 Tb cracked pepper
1 Tb paprika
3 Tb olive oil
Make a paste of all the ingredients and rub into veal.  Place veal in roasting pan that fits snugly, cover well and refrigerate overnight.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, add enough water to just come up to the bottom of the veal, cover tightly and bake for about 3 hours, basting after each hour.  Add water if needed.  Uncover for last hour to brown.  Serves 8
Enjoy,
Irene

Passover Lemon Meringue Pie

Last week I lost two important people in my life, my cousin Robert, who was more like an older brother than a cousin, and my close friend Ruthie.  I went back East for Robert’s funeral and what I experienced over the course of five days was the workings of a family who come together like pieces of a patchwork quilt, all different in design but stronger and more effective as one unit.  Almost my entire immediate family, as well as my extended family, came to Philadelphia where we spent our days cooking, eating, crying and  laughing in the comfort of our cousin Micheline’s home.  Even after both refrigerators and freezers were filled to capacity we continued to cook.  It kept us busy and focused, taking care of each other and everyone around us.

After the funeral we prepared Shabbat dinner for about twenty.  Everyone participated in their own way, some by offering words of comfort to the mourners, some by taking charge of the kitchen, some by providing comic relief.  On Saturday night, the evening before everyone’s departure, Denise (Robert’s daughter) said that it was just the kind of evening her father loved, having the family together, sharing good food and good wine.  The night ended with my daughter Shira, myself, and Denise all sitting around the table sharing a pie which we ate straight from the tin, one spoonful at a time.

Passover is just around the corner, a time when families get together.  May it be filled with joy, and not with sorrow, and with the memories of those we lost but will never forget, and why not make some pie that can be shared straight from the tin.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust

1 cup Matzoh Meal

1/4 cup melted margarine

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

Blend ingredients together.  Press into a greased 9″ pie pan and bake at 375 for 15 minutes or till golden brown.

Lemon Meringue Filling

5 tbsp potato starch

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

3 eggs, separated

2 tbsp margarine

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp grated lemon rind

Combine potato starch, salt and 1/2 cup sugar in top of a double boiler and then add water.  Cook, stirring over boiling water till thickened. Cover pot, lower heat and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.   In a bowl, combine egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Spoon a little of the hot cooked mixture into the yolks, stirring rapidly.  Then pour yolk mixture back into the pot. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add a drop of water if too thick.  Remove from heat.  Add margarine, lemon juice and lemon rind to filling and allow to cool to room temperature.  Pour into pie shell.

Meringue

3 egg whites

dash salt

6 tbsp sugar

Using a beater, beat egg whites with salt till foamy, gradually adding  6 tbsp sugar till smooth and glossy.  Pour Meringue over pie filling and bake in 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Chill and serve.

Enjoy,

Irene