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

Latkes for a crowd

Sometimes it really is the little things in life that makes you happy.  Today I had a perfect afternoon.  I came home from work early, planning to make my latkes so I could freeze them, something I don’t normally do but this year I needed to make lots of them.  Unexpectedly it began to rain which only added to the coziness of the kitchen.  I turned on my favorite radio station which plays Christmas songs this time of year, (I happen to love Christmas music) and peeled ten pounds of potatoes.  I know it sounds crazy but to actually have the luxury of spending a weekday afternoon in the kitchen felt decadent.  It took about 3 1/2 hours from start to finish but during that time two friends came to visit, one carrying lattes for each of us.  Rain, that distinctive smell of latkes frying, music, friends, and good coffee.  It doesn’t get better than that.  Happy Holidays.

This recipe made exactly 150 latkes.  If you want a smaller version, here is the recipe I normally use for latkes.

 

Potato Latkes for a crowd

10 pounds Russet potatoes,  peeled and cut into eighths.

4 large onions, cut in chunks

17 eggs

4 1/2 cups matzoh meal

3 Tbs salt

Canola Oil ( Lots )

Pour oil into three large frying pans until oil comes halfway up the sides of the pan.  In the meantime, in batches, fill the bowl of a food processor with potatoes and a handful of onions, and process till mixture is fine.  Pour into large mixing bowl and add 3 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 3/4 cups matzoh meal.  Mix well.  When oil is hot, place large spoonfuls of mixture in pan but do not overcrowd.   Fry till golden on one side and flip over.  Serves 35-40 people.

Enjoy,

Irene

Fried Green Tomatoes

During the Seder I shared an article written by Rabbi Debora Gordon in which she writes about “leaving Passover behind”.   We are coming to the last days of the Chag and I too am sad to know that the end of the holiday is approaching.  It  isn’t just the departure of two of my children, and it isn’t just the daunting task of putting things back in order.  It is in part the passage of time, knowing that another holiday season is now behind us and I am faced with the uncertainty of what next year will bring.  Rabbi Gordon wrote that the end of Passover means that “Life stops being so simple”.   We have spent our holiday in simplicity, being at home, in the kitchen, eating all of our meals together, making few excursions out of the house.  With the religious limitations and restrictions comes an ease that occurs when fewer choices means fewer decisions.  That too is something that I will miss.  I will relish these last days of  Yontif and wish all of you a Chag Sameach.

When I was growing up the meals my mother prepared during Passover were really not that different from the rest of the year.  Dinner consisted of soup, chicken or beef, salad and potatoes. A box of Matzoh was placed on the table instead of the loaf of freshly baked rye bread.  The pressure to be innovative is self-imposed and I know that nobody would complain if I made garlic chicken every night.  This year  I have made a conscious effort to incorporate more vegetables into our diet.  We have had Kale chips, trays of various roasted vegetables including artichokes and asparagus,  Greek salads, pickled vegetables, and last night I served a Passover version of Fried Green Tomatoes with a side of tomato basil salad.  Very simple.

Fried Green Tomatoes

3 large green tomatoes

1 cup matzoh meal

3 eggs, beaten

salt and pepper to taste

Safflower oil

Core and slice tomatoes.  Each tomato should yield 4 slices, about 1/2 inch in thickness.  Dip in beaten egg, and then in seasoned matzoh meal.  Heat oil in frying pan till very hot and add tomatoes.  Do not crowd pan.  Fry till brown and crispy on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.  Cast iron pan is best.  Serve hot with a side of tomato basil salad.

Serves 12

Enjoy,

Irene

Latkes

The Chanukah of my childhood bears little resemblance to how we now celebrate the holiday.  Growing up there were three ways that a visitor to our home would recognize that it was Chanukah.  Latkes were being fried in the kitchen, a Hanukkiah was prominently placed on the dining room table, and a dreidel or two were lying around the living room.  There were no decorations strung in the apartment, and no wrapped presents to open.  Before the candles were lit, we said the brachot and sang a song or two.  We were then given gelt, money to spend as we wished, (I still remember the white go-go boots that I bought at Alexander’s on Fordham Road) and that was our gift.

Looking back, I don’t feel that the significance of the holiday was in any way diminished, despite the modest way in which it was celebrated. I loved Chanukah and anticipated its arrival each year.  I would come home from school and run to choose the candles, carefully selecting colors and creating patterns.  Alternating blue and white candles one night, assorted colors on another, and my favorite, an entire Hanukkiah filled with white candles.  Chanukah had no religious meaning or overtones in our home.  We knew about the miracle associated with the oil but my parents always emphasized the military victory.

When we were raising our children, Chanukah celebrations became much more elaborate, and the religious significance was emphasized rather than the military history.  There were always parties to host or attend, lots of gifts and decorations, lots of singing and lots of food.  I look forward to seeing the traditions that my children will embrace in their own homes, but for now I am happy to know that all of my children are either hosting Chanukah parties or participating in the celebration. That is the greatest gift.

No matter how we celebrated the holiday one thing always remained the same, the way we make latkes.  I make them exactly as my mother did during those early celebrations, sweet and simple, with a little sugar sprinkled on top.

Happy Chanukah to you and your families!


Latkes

4 large Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks and placed in bowl of cold water.

1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks

5 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup matzoh meal

salt to taste

Vegetable Oil
Pour enough oil into a large frying pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pan.  In the meantime, place coarsely chopped potatoes and onion in food processor,  a few at a time, and process till fine.  (we do not use grated potatoes)  Pour into bowl and add beaten eggs, salt, and enough matzoh meal to bind mixture.  When oil is hot, place large spoonfuls of mixture in pan but do not crowd.  Fry about 4-5 latkes at a time.  Fry till golden and flip over. Serve straight from pan.

Enjoy,

Irene

Bubelach (Passover Pancakes)

As a young girl I always thought that “bubela” was a term of endearment.  I am not sure how old I was when I found out that it was also a pancake.  This is a recipe that my Mom made every Passover.  Our friends, the Androns, lived across the alley from my parents and when their kids would run over to visit, my Mom would serve them bubelach.  We always ate it with sugar on top and a cup of hot tea but it is equally good with jam or a fresh fruit topping.

Bubelach
4 eggs, separated
5 Tbsp. matzoh meal
dash salt
3-4 Tbsp. oil

Beat egg whites till stiff. Gently fold in yolks, matzoh meal and salt. Heat oil in large, deep, frying pan till hot. Gently pour mixture into pan and lower heat. When bottom of pancake is golden, slide carefully on to a plate, and invert back into pan. Cook for about five more minutes. Insert a toothpick to make sure center is dry. Cut and serve hot. Serves 2-3

Enjoy,
Irene