Posts Tagged Passover
Cajun food scares me.
I don’t know the first thing about Cajun cooking. It seems to involve a lot of shellfish and pots large enough to boil small children in their depths. People argue about whether to call the creepy-crawly things crawfish or crayfish or crawdads or mudbugs. They pronounce “boil” as “berl.” They insist that the only possible way to “berl” anything is with Zatarain’s Crab Boil, and they do not want to hear that I won’t be putting a single crawbeastie into the mix.
You can’t boil tilapia. I mean, you can try, but I’m betting it’ll fall apart. So the fish here gets broiled or smoked, and the potatoes get boiled–er, berled.
This hardly qualifies as a recipe. It’s insanely easy. Thank goodness for that.
Ingredients (serves 2)
For the fish:
2 tilapia fillets
1/4 t white pepper
1/4 t steak seasoning (essentially black pepper and garlic)
1 1/2 T hot paprika
salt to taste
2 T smoker chips (if smoking)
For the potatoes:
8 small red potatoes
1 1/2 quarts water
1/3 cup Zatarain’s Crab Boil seasoning
2 t salt
For the fish:
Mix the white pepper, steak seasoning, paprika, and salt together. Rub the tilapia generously with the spice mixture. If using a stovetop smoker (which I highly recommend), add the wood chips underneath the drip tray and smoke on medium-high for about 15 minutes. If broiling, heat the oven and broil about 5 minutes per side.
For the potatoes:
Add salt and seasoning to the water and bring it to a boil. It will be terrifying and murky. Add the potatoes. Boil 15 minutes or until fork-tender.
Add a side of steamed vegetables and voilà, dinner.
A word of warning–hot paprika isn’t all that hot, but this fish uses a lot of it. If you’re not a fan of spice, sweet paprika will do nicely in its place.
Cauliflower gets a bad rap. It really isn’t fair. It’s mild, succulent, and easy to prepare, yet I know far too many people who won’t consider eating it without first drowning it beyond recognition in an unholy sauce of Velveeta cheese. Don’t get me wrong here, I love cheese, but sometimes your vegetables deserve better.
Enter cauliflower couscous. During Passover, it takes the place of grains. The rest of the time, it’s simply a favorite accompaniment to salmon or a cheese plate or anything made of lamb.
I saw this recipe in a cookbook called the Breakaway Cook and for some reason failed to buy it. I probably changed the method drastically, and added greens because everything is better with greens. Add a good dose of citrus and a touch of olive oil and you’re good to go.
1 head of cauliflower
1/3 to 1/2 lb collard green chiffonade
1/4 cup yuzu, lime, or lemon juice (yuzu juice can be hard to find, but more than worth keeping an eye out for.)
2-3 T olive oil
salt, to taste
Chop the cauliflower into florets.
Place the florets in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the pieces mostly range between the size of peas and grains of rice. I find this easier in small batches, a handful at a time, but if your food processor is larger and less prone to let pieces of food surf above the blades than mine, feel free to do it all at once.
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat and add the cauliflower. Drizzle the olive oil over it and sauté for about 10 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the yuzu (or lemon or lime) juice. Pop a lid over the pan and steam for another 10 minutes.
Crank the heat back up to high and add the greens. Cook, stirring constantly, another 3-5 minutes.
Add salt to taste and serve piping hot. This is an amazing accompaniment to honey-braised lamb shanks, but just as good as a main dish with a plate of olives and bocconcini. It’s simple enough to be worth making even when cooking for one, and good enough to bring out for company. It’s especially useful if, like most of us, you’re used to providing some kind of grain with dinner but are feeding someone who can’t eat gluten.
You could easily mix it up to complement a different palate–make it with peas and turmeric instead of greens with Indian food, or add some diced eggplant and apricots for a Middle Eastern meal. Use orange juice and sliced olives one time, red wine and figs the next. I’ll always come back to greens, though; there’s nothing quite like greens in almost any savory dish you can think of.
I’ve tried a lot of different ways to make Matzoh palatable. Nutella becomes bland in its presence. A cookie dough dip was too rich and almost sour from the cream cheese. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting, but it was nothing like cookie dough. Straight cream cheese with some smoked salmon worked out nicely, and thick slabs of cheddar were likewise a hit this year. So apparently I enjoy my matzoh more with savory toppings than sweet. Why not crumble it into a cheesy vegetable casserole?
I had half a pound of kale and I always have bags of frozen artichoke hearts. However, I highly recommend experimenting here. Eggplant slices, onion, asparagus, and pumpkin all seem like good candidates to add in.
1/2 pound kale (or spinach or mustard greens)
1 eight-ounce bag of frozen artichoke hearts, rinsed and thawed
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
2 sheets matzoh. I can’t even call them crackers. crackers aren’t this huge.
1/4 pound havarti, grated
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the kale into bite-sized pieces and discard the ribs. Heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet or wok. Add the garlic, then toss the kale in it to coat.
Once the smell of frying kale hits you, cover the pan and let it cook about 5 minutes.
Mix the kale with the artichoke hearts and spread them in a layer in a small casserole dish.
Crush the matzoh using your favorite crushing method. I put the sheets in a Ziploc bag and hit them with my rolling pin (one of the many advantages of having a solid Italian rolling pin is the lack of fussy handles. It’s essentially a very smooth club.) Sprinkle the matzoh crumbs over the veggies.
And sprinkle the cheese over the matzoh. Havarti is very sticky, so I probably should have mixed it with the matzoh crumbs first. As it was, I got a lovely cheese layer on top but no cheese penetrated throughout the casserole. Not bad, but could have been better.
Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden and the smell is driving you mad with hunger.
It is light. It is gorgeous. It is filling yet mostly healthful. delightful little fronds of kale peek up through the cheese and crisp like chips when you bite them. Soft, buttery artichoke hearts take the bite out of the cheese. And throughout is the crunch of matzoh. This is truly the only dish I would say is improved by those horrible, flavorless crackers. Of course, I’ll have to test this out with some butter crackers now that Passover has ended. For the sake of Science.
I am a bit of a meringue freak. I don’t make it often, though, for a variety of reasons. First of all, meringues use plenty of egg white, but not the yolks. If “m making meringue, I’m not going to do it by halves and just use two or three eggs. No sir. I used a whole dozen. Now there are twelve yolks sitting in my fridge waiting for Passover to end so that they can become lime pie. Do you see now why I don’t do this more often? It’s dangerous!
But meringue can be had so many ways. Soft and fluffy over a pie, crisp and crunch in a small cookie to dip in hot chocolate or slater with peanut butter, and of course, half-baked. A half-baked meringue is crispy on the outside, but a delicate sponge inside. The texture is almost that of an angel food cake with a crust. And it is delightful.
Ingredients (makes three monster sized half baked meringues, or two monsters plus two littler ones, or a lot of eensy little ones.)
vinegar to wipe down bowl*
12 egg whites
2 3/4 cups sugar
pinch of salt from a very possessive salt owl
*wiping down the bowl with vinegar is a bit of a superstition of mine. If your bowl is not 100% dry or has a smidge of oil in it, the world will not end, nor will your egg foam. I do it because my grandmother used to, and because I kind of like the smell of vinegar. I’m weird like that.
Break and separate a lot of eggs. Incidentally, this:
is why you shouldn’t be too impressed with the architectural skills of honeybees. When tightly packed circles (or bees) press on each other, the circles become hexagons all on their own. It’s just physics. Now stop distracting me and break some more eggs!
That is a lot of yolks. Cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge. I’ll teach you how to make lime pie in a few days.
The egg whites need a nice big bowl, as they are about to start taking up a lot more volume. Toss in a pinch of salt and start whipping.
Then whip some more.
Then add the sugar in a slow stream and whip until the whole mass is thick and fluffy and the surface holds a certain amount of definition. Remember, overwhipping is just as disastrous as underwhipping, and much harder to fix!
I honestly just scooped with a 1-cup measuring cup onto a sheet of parchment paper. I drew circles on the paper first, then flipped it over, to get the bobs at least round. You could get all kinds of fancy with piping tips, but I honestly think it’s more fun to eat a blob. Plus I didn’t want to wash the fiddly little pastry nozzles.
Toss them in the oven at 250F for an hour and a half. When you pull them out, they’ll have a delightful eggshell color and sound hollow if you tap on them gently. Tap hard, and they will explode.
Sometimes a bit of egg ends up not quite whipped enough and leaks out a bit at the bottom. That bit is fun, too–it tastes like hard candy!
If you want them crisp all the way through, leave them in the oven for a full two and a half hours, then turn the oven off but don’t remove the meringues until they’re cool. This is less fun because you have to wait like three hours for dessert, and also it bears no resemblance to angel food cake. I didn’t actually check the internal temperature of the half baked ones, so theoretically I suppose the presence of Salmonella is possible. Of course, the small carnivores probably carry Toxoplasmosis on their disgusting paws, and the even smaller carnivores,
those girls, definitely carry Salmonella, but that doesn’t stop me letting them clamber on me when they feel like it. It takes a really large and impressive salmonella culture to infect a healthy person, and and hour and a half at 250F should probably kill any bacterial cells. Still, if you don’t want to risk it, crisp them all the way through. Or, you know, stop eating eggs.
Brisket brisket brisket brisket yum! Sorry about that. It’s just that I’ve never made brisket before. My mother-in-law does (and she makes a mean one, too. Way better than mine turned out. Grr.)
Anyway. I always worried that if I made brisket it would come out tough or bland, so while I order it often in restaurants and stare longingly at it in the butcher’s case, I’d never tried to make it myself.
Then I saw this beautiful cut behind the counter for less than $5 a pound. How could I say no?
Could you? This four-and-a-half pound behemoth cost me just over fifteen dollars and made a great middle-of-Passover meal. With a side of broccoli and roasted red potatoes, I almost didn’t miss the bread.
Ingredients (serves four with leftovers)
3 pounds brisket
2 T olive oil
salt and spices to taste (I used cayenne)
1 pound onion*
1/2 pound carrots
1/2 pound celery
6-8 cloves garlic
3 T brown sugar
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
Most briskets are bigger than three pounds. Mine was four and a half, and some of the others at the butcher weighed in at a whopping eight pounds. So you’ll want to cut it down to three. Three pounds is also the most that comfortably fits in a 9×13 pan, and that’s what I used to cook this. Once you’ve cut it down to size, trim the surface fat by running a knife under the fat layer parallel to the skin.
Heat the oven to 300°F
It really doesn’t need the fat to be tender, I promise. Salt and season the meat generously, then heat the oil in your biggest frying pan.
And curse up a storm when this happens.
Thanks to my teflon fingers (seriously, I grab things right out of 400°F ovens all the time, and only rarely end up with eensy little blisters on my fingers. Don’t you try it, though.), I managed to brown it pretty well. Then you’ll want to arrange your celery and carrot in a layer on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Plop the brisket on top of them, and toss the garlic cloves in.
Look at all that beautiful caramelized onion. Unfortunately, Mr. B smelled it from across the apartment and walked around lighting incense making loud hacking and gagging noises until I threw all that lovely onion away. Oh well. He’s allowed to be picky about one thing; goodness knows I’m picky, too.
Pour the beef stock and wine in around the brisket, dust the top of the meat with brown sugar, and float a bay leaf or two in the pan.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for two hours. Pull it out, flip the meat, and cover tightly again and bake for another two hours. That’s four hours of covered baking.
In the end, you have a meltingly tender piece of meat that has absorbed every flavor you cook it with rather nicely. Were it not Passover I would have used a bottle of beer in place of the wine, and I think tomato would have been amazing, so those of you who are not allergic may want to throw in a can of crushed whole tomatoes and see how that turns out. And hey, have some onions for me.
I had some of the leftovers today for lunch, despite my hate- and fear-filled relationship with the microwave at work. (There was an incident involving some nukerwave popcorn. The fire department was called.) Even the soft cooked carrots reheated nicely, and I think for a first try it came out rather well.
Next time, I will use beer. And maybe some ketchup. And all of my dignity, it will be gone.
I’m okay with that.
Potatoes are probably my all-time favorite food. I like them mashed, fried, baked, twice-baked, souffléd, chipped, hash browned, latked, and gratined. I use them to make gnocchi, pierogis, omelettes, and even slice them into my stir fry. If you don’t like potatoes, I really don’t know what we have to talk about. Poatoes are brilliant. And sometimes poisonous, but that’s all right.
These particular potatoes are chopped and roasted in duck or chicken fat, leaving them crunchy and moist at the same time. I’m making them again tomorrow to serve with smoked brisket and brocolli, but I have more than once decided that these lovely things are the star of the meal all by themselves. This tends to make Mr. B sad. See, while I can happily eat meat only once or twice a week, he doesn’t understand the concept of a dinner without it. It took him years to stop asking “where’s the entree?” when I served a vegetarian pasta dish. I guess growing up on a ranch will do that to a man. At any rate, roasted potatoes!
4 cloves garlic (or more, if you really like garlic.)
3 T schmaltz
2 sprigs rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste. Cayenne is good, too. Decide what spices will best complement your meal, and run with it.
Directions Preheat the oven to 400°F. Chop potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Cut garlic in half and remove the germ. Or not, if you like the germ. I think it has a weird texture. Spread the cubed potatoes and garlic in an 8×8″ pan, and dot the top with schmaltz. (That’s rendered poultry fat, guys. I use duck.) Scatter rosemary leaves over all this, season liberally, and pop the whole thing in the oven.
After 40-45 minutes, these beauties will be ready to eat. try not to burn your tongue on them–the look and smell so good you’ll want to pop them in your mouth like candy, straight out of the pan, but that hurts. Er–not that I’d know from experience.
Serve with meat and veg of your choice.