Spring is here, Purim is over, and Passover is just weeks away. For the third year in a row, we are going back East to celebrate Passover with our children at the home of our older son and daughter-in-law, a home where we have always felt welcomed and included, to a seder that is open to so many. As my part of the planning begins, various family members have gently reminded me that “less is more”, have informed me that a Seder meal doesn’t need both chicken and beef, have encouraged me to cook larger quantities of fewer dishes, and have suggested to me that a good model to follow is something apparently common in restaurants in Williamsburg, where they often specialize in a dish or two that they make really well (does that sound like a hint?). Appreciative of everyone’s wish to make the entire process less labor intensive, easier on me, healthier, less costly, etc. I understand and hear the words in my head, but they don’t resonate in my heart. The dictionary definition of feast is to eat and drink sumptuously.
Last night I went to bed with a plan for a stream-lined menu that felt a little bit as if the “feasting” part of Passover, as we knew it, may be a thing of the past. This morning I thought of my mom, a woman who knew what hunger was, what deprivation meant, and who, more, than many of us, understood the importance of Passover. When the time came for her to serve the meal, there was no doubt that you were not sitting down to a typical dinner, but to a Passover feast. She knew that less is not more, it is just less. That when a family gathers together to celebrate, we should celebrate to the fullest, the wine should pour freely, and the food should be plentiful and varied. Let all who are hungry come and eat.
Ode to Fried Potatoes by Pablo Neruda
Translated from the Spanish by Maria Jacketti
The world’s joy
sizzling in olive oil.
to be fried
enter the skillet,
of a morning swan –
and they leave
half-braised in gold,
gift of the crackling amber
embellishes the potato
with its earthy perfume,
and the pepper
is pollen that has traveled
beyond the reefs,
in a marbled suit,
plates are filled
with the echoes of potatoey abundance:
delicious simplicity of the earth
20, thin-skinned, new white potatoes, smallish and round, about 2″ in diameter
1 tablespoon olive oil (for turkey or chicken which needs a little extra fat)
Chopped leftover potatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pound ground chicken, beef or turkey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
additional olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 Tb Telma chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups water
To make the sauce, add olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan. Add minced garlic and sauté for a minute or two over a low flame, just till fragrant. Add diced tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes before adding remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place potatoes on a sturdy service and carefully cut off a small slice from both the bottom and top. Stand potato on one end and using a small sharp knife, grapefruit cutter, or melon baller, hollow out almost all of the sides and the center of the potato.
Finely chop leftover potato pieces in food processor, and add to a large bowl with the other ingredients for the filling. Mix well. Using a small spoon, stuff filling into hollowed out potatoes. Gently sauté stuffed potatoes in olive oil till golden on all sides. Place in oven proof casserole. Pour the sauce over the stuffed potatoes, cover, and bake in a preheated oven for about 2-3 hours. Serves 15-20 as a side dish.
Note: Number of potatoes and amount of filling varies depending on size. Any leftover meat can be made shaped into small ktzizot (burgers), sautéed in same olive oil and added to pot. We did that and they were great! This is a dish that is better when it has a chance to sit so make it the day before you are planning to serve it.