Over the past three nights I have watched Cooked, a series based on the book of the same title by Michael Pollan and I am hooked, on Cooked. In the first episode I learned that Americans are spending less time cooking than ever before, no surprise, but more time watching food-related cooking shows, which I did find surprising. It’s been a great reminder that home cooking is more than a worthwhile endeavor, it is a gift, not just the act of preparing the meal, but also by preserving traditions to pass down to the next generation who, if we believe the trend, may sadly be cooking even less.
With Pesach approaching I’ve been spending lots of time thinking about the Seder meal. I know that the next two weeks will fly by and then it will be finally be here. The food will have been prepared, the table set, and just before I sit down, I’ll inevitably be flooded with memories of previous Seders. Both Norm and I were raised in households where our mothers spent hours and hours preparing for the Seders. I remember my mother standing tirelessly over her pot of simmering chicken soup, repeatedly circling the outer rim of the broth with a spoon, gently spooning off any bit of “shaum” scum that would rise to the surface, so the soup would be as clear as possible. My mother-in-law would purchase small pickling cukes weeks in advance, because timing was everything if you wanted the pickles to be ready for Seder. After Lil carefully opened the first jar, and sliced the pickles just so, she would bring them to the table and wait to hear the verdict, were they were too spicy, not spicy enough, or just right.
So thoughts of Manya and Lil will of course lead to thoughts of Manya Lily, our first grandchild, who will be experiencing her first real seder (she was too little last year) in Houston. I know how much those women would have loved to have met, and of course cooked for their great-granddaughter. And I hope that in some small way I can pass on their knowledge to her, so that the story is not the only thing we repeat at future Seders, but our family tradition of home cooking as well.
Enjoy and wishing you a Zisn Pesach.
Note: It is not only my own Polish traditions that inspire me but really all kinds of family recipes from around the world. This dish was suggested by my colleague who comes from a Moroccan and Algerian Jewish background.
Stuffed Artichoke Hearts
18-20 frozen artichoke hearts , 2 – 14 oz bags
1 Tb lemon
1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, chicken, or turkey
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
pine nuts, toasted (optional)
Broth (adapted from a recipe by Udi Shlomi)
5 celery stalks, including leaves, coarsely chopped
5 Swiss Chard leaves, remove main stem and coarsely chop
4 small zucchini, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt, pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
juice of two lemons
Place oil in large soup pot. Add vegetables and saute for a few minutes till they collapse. Then add stock, lemon, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to low, and simmer for about 40 minutes.
While your broth is cooking, defrost the artichoke hearts in a bowl of warm water with juice of half a lemon. This takes some time, so do it in advance. In the meantime mix the ground meat in a bowl along with all of the other ingredients till well combined. Place your defrosted hearts on a tray and carefully divide the meat mixture so that they are all filled. In the meantime, remove half the cooked broth from the pot and set aside. Gently place stuffed artichoke bottoms into the pot and slowly pour remaining broth back into pot, enough so that it reaches just about half way up. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for about an hour and a half. Alternatively, place in a 325 degree oven for about the same amount of time. Serve hot.