Monday, April 25, 2016

Passover 2016 -- Another Sephardic Seder

A few years ago, I "converted" to Sephardism because I am much more excited by Sephardic/Mediterranean cuisine than by Ashenazic/Eastern European food. Ever since, I have been cooking dishes from all around the Mediterranean for our family Seder, with a major exception for  my sister-in-law's superb matzoh ball soup. This year she couldn't come, and I did not try to duplicate her wonderful soup; instead, I made a Watercress and Spinach Soup with carrot and chickpea "croutons" (see image below).

I recently read Engin Akin's excellent Essential Turkish Cuisine, and made her Fava Bean Purée with dill and red onions instead of a more conventional hummus or tapenade.

Fava bean purée with dill and red onions
Then I served Mario Batali's Lemon-scented Veal Meatballs, using matzoh flour instead of bread for the binding panade.

Lemon-scented veal meatballs
I also served my go-to Burnt Eggplant with Tahini, from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty,

Burnt Eggplant with tahini, pomegranate seeds on endive leaves
and my newest favorite, Socca (chickpea crepes), a favorite from Nice, from David Lebovitz' blog and his book The Sweet Life in Paris. (Too crazed to take photo.)

The fifth appetizer was my only concession to the Eastern European tradition: bites of gefilte fish procured from Citarella and served with homemade, head-exploding horseradish (recipe from America's Test Kitchen's d.i.y. cookbook).

Gefilte fish bites with homemade horseradish
For the dinner, I made the aforesaid Watercress and Spinach Soup, from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem.

Watercress and spinach soup with carrot and chickpea "croutons"
followed by Claudia Roden's Berber Couscous with Seven Vegetables, although I served it on crusty Persian rice rather than with couscous, which is not permissible during Passover, and Butternut Squash with Nigella Seeds, a deceptively simple vegetarian main from Ottolenghi's Plenty More. (I was too busy to remember to photograph the mains.)

One of the highlights of the Seder, for me at least, is haroset, a fruit and nut spread that is symbolic of the mortar used by the Jews in Egypt to make bricks for Pharaoh, eaten as the famous "Hillel Sandwich" with bitter horseradish on matzoh and thereafter just eaten on matzoh because it tastes so good. This year I made two varieties: first, Joan Nathan's Bordeaux Style Haroset from Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cuisine in France, which I have used for several years. Second, Syrian Haroset from an on-line recipe by Jennifer Abadi, a wonderful confection of tart Turkish dried apricots, lemon juice, orange flower water and chopped pistachios.

Bordeaux-style haroset
Syrian style haroset
For dessert, my go-to Blueberry (and raspberry) Pie from Food52 Genius Recipes, with alterations. I used Clotilde Dusoulier's pâte sablée made with gluten-free (and hence wheat-free) flour (Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour) and I used potato starch in lieu of cornstarch (not Kosher for Passover) for the filling. A success, although the crust was not quite as crispy as the conventional wheat-based variety. Still, I now know how to make a gluten-free tart for my friends who can't or just don't eat wheat.

Blueberry (and raspberry) tart
Finally, for my ginger-loving mother, Fresh Ginger Cake from David Lebovitz' Ready for Dessert, adopted for Passover by using matzoh flour, served with crème fraîche.

Fresh ginger cake
Whew! At least I have a whole year to get ready to do this again.

Happy Passover!

Bobby Jay

For convenience, here is a list of the sources for the dishes that made up the meal.
  • Burnt eggplant with tahini and pomegranate seeds: Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty.
  • Fava bean purée: Engin Akin, Essential Turkish Cuisine.
  • Lemon scented veal meatballs: Mario Batali, Food Network. Caution: the recipe calls for 4 lemons; 2 are more than enough.
  • Socca (chickpea flour crepes): Lebovitz, The Sweet Life in Paris and
  • Bordeaux style haroset: Joan Nathan, Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France.
  • Syrian style haroset: Jennifer Abadi, blog Too Good to Passover.
  • Berber couscous with seven vegetables, Claudia Roden, Middle Eastern Food.
  • Persian rice: cooking lesson with Jennifer Ababi, Institute for Culinary education.
  • Squash with nigella seeds: Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty More.
  • Fresh ginger cake, David Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert.
  • Blueberry tart: Kristen Miglore, Food52 Genius Recipes.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Paris -- Lebanese Meal Chez Tania

Last month I was invited to dinner by my friend Tania, a wonderful Lebanese cook, caterer and food stylist. As always, it was a sophisticated, beautiful and delicious meal. Here are some visual highlights.

Hummus with fava beans, pomegranate seeds
Peppers, radishes, scallions, pomegranate
Cucumbers, yogurt, basil, za'atar 
Pudding and rose petal jam on khadaif
There are said to be more than 600 Lebanese restaurants in Paris, admittedly including some simple sandwich shops. But I bet that none is as good as Chez Tania.

Bobby Jay