Passover Food Memories and Recipes For Today’s Celebration

By Chef Judi Gallagher.

I love March because it reminds me of wonderful family Passover meals. My nana would take the train from Yonkers, New York to Connecticut carrying bundles of smoked white fish, herring and the best chocolate macaroons I have ever tasted.

My mother’s birthday often fell on one of the eight days of Passover; we celebrated with a giant made-for-Passover sponge cake, created with a dozen eggs, (who knew from high cholesterol?) filled with fresh whipped cream and sliced sweet strawberries.

Passover Meal

Eating peanut butter on matzoh was a treat, at least for the first four days until we began to crave a good old piece of Wonder bread. I remember my mom and nana making what they called “Greek Salad” during the week of Passover. I loved the crunch of green cabbage chunks, tossed with caraway seeds, shredded carrots, diced cucumbers and chopped tomatoes and and an abundance of chopped pickled herring. How the heck they got the name “Greek” out of this wonderful chopped salad I will never know.

Not a Greek olive, not a hint of feta and certainly not a drop of olive oil went into the mixture, just some good old kosher salt, sugar and white vinegar. This strange and delicious salad preceded a chilled bowl of borsht (beet soup) with a dollop of sour cream, fresh chopped dill and diced cucumbers. My mom always added a steaming hot boiled potato in her bowl but I would have none of that!

To write out a recipe simply goes against the grain of what hanging out in the kitchen with my mother and nana was all about. Cooking for these two women was a little this and that and a taste and a little more of that and one more pinch of this and a whole lotta love. So, if you decide to make our family’s “Greek Salad” that has nothing to do with Greek anything, you go ahead and add a pinch of your own flavorful memories.

Wines to Serve for the Seder dinner

In years past the inside joke about Maneshevitz wine was that it was the unspoken 9th plague. Fast forward to 2010 to the Passover table. Kosher wines are not only accessible and palate pleasing and they are finding a new super stardom for their more organic nature and variety. Gone is the melted grape lollypop taste. According to the top Kosher wines are:

1. Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Palomino Fino (Spain, nonvintage). About $20.

Kosher sherry isn’t an oxymoron. Gonzalez Byass, the great sherry bodega in Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucia, broadens the spectrum of modern Jewish wines with this rabbinically supervised extra-dry fino; it offers woody, olive-like aroma and flavors just like the regular version. While fino can be used for kiddush, the prayer over wine at a sabbath or seder dinner, it can simultaneously do double duty as an incomparable aperitif. Afterward it may accompany chicken and fish dishes.

2. Goose Bay 2007 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand). About $21. Although Goose Bay Chardonnay, made by Spencer Hill Estate, can brighten a first course, so too can the Sauvignon Blanc. The 2007 displays the signature grassy scent and aroma of Kiwi Sauvignons. This bold, succulent version also manages to be creamy and zippy, and offers a long finish. Pair it with a salad, but hold the vinegar. (In other words, don’t serve it with my not-so-Greek Salad)

3. Segal’s 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve (Israel), ($20).
This juicy, fruity, lingering red made from grapes grown in the Galilee region is rich in cassis and shows tobacco notes. It is such a pleasure-giver that wine lovers could easily adopt it as an everyday house wine. Although owned by Barkan, Israel’s second-largest producer, the Segal label shows its own artful style.

So my friends, raise your glass and say a toast to soft matzoh balls, true good wine for Passover and the everlasting memories crafted in the kitchen with mom and nana – and of yes, those chocolate macaroons.

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Passover Recipes
Matzoh Ball Soup
Chef Judi Gallagher

While I cannot guarantee this nourishing soul will cure the common cold, it couldn’t hurt. I think matzoh ball soup is wonderful to serve year round, whether you’re celebrating Passover or just need some comfort in your life.

3 cartons chicken stock

Matzo Ball Soup2 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin off

1 ½ onions, cut into large chunks
4 stalks celery, leaves on, cut into large pieces
4 carrots, peeled, cut into large pieces
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon dill seed
Fresh ground pepper
Kosher salt, if needed
1 packet matzoh ball mix
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
4 quarts boiling water

Place the chicken stock, vegetables and seasoning in a soup pot. Add chicken breasts and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove chicken, cool slightly, and break chicken off the bone into small pieces.
Return to pot.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 beaten eggs with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add matzoh ball mix and stir well. Place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. While that’s refrigerating, boil 4 quarts water. Take the matzoh ball mix out of the refrigerator and roll into small balls. Drop into boiling water, lower heat to a low boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the matzoh balls from the boiling water and add to the soup. Simmer soup for 30 minutes, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and feel the love.

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Emma Joel’s Parsnip and Curry Soup
(Serves six)
2 medium parsnips, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ounces butter or margarine
1 teaspoon curry powder
1.2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
A little oil
2 tablespoons flour (I use potato starch for Passover)
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt fat and oil together and fry parsnips and onions for 10 minutes. Add the curry powder and flour and stir in thoroughly. Add the stock slowly, stirring constantly and bring to boil. Season to taste and simmer for 30 minutes. Liquidize when cool. Reheat to serve.

1 thought on “Passover Food Memories and Recipes For Today’s Celebration”

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