Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Passover Prep

So...it's been since Chanuka that I posted last! My job has been absolutely insane since January, and I've been sick with various winter ailments for a couple of months, so not much leisure time.

But, Pesach (Passover) starts Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night). I've been frantically cleaning this week and.am.almost.there. I managed to um, erode, my right thumbnail on Sunday, cleaning my stove. My stove is old and hard to clean, and I should probably think about replacing it before Pesach next year. The kitchen is pretty much done at this point; I just have to do the countertops and sink tonight, then kasher the sink (basically, pour hot water all over it) and cover the counters. I think I can finish tonight! Woot!

One thing I've learned over the years (I've been making Pesach Seders for 12 years), is to plan my menus carefully. I sit down with my limited number of Pesach cookbooks, and my nice stack of Internet recipes, and carefully create menus. While I plan the menus, I review each recipe and create a shopping list. Even more so, if a recipe calls for an ingredient that may be difficult to obtain (Passover food supply can be erratic at times - this year, there's a margarine shortage, amongst other things), I'll put a star or a little number next to the ingredient, and also put a star next to the other ingredients on the menu that are needed for the recipe. That way, if I can't find the hard-to-find ingredient, I won't buy the other ingredients either.

In case anyone is interested, these are my menus for this year:

Seder I – 8 adults
Appetizer: Gefilte Fish (A&B frozen gefilte fish, just boil up in a pot)
Soup: Chicken soup (my mother is making it this year)
Main: *Balsamic Herb Rubbed Chicken, p. 95 PBD
Side 1: Boiled Potatoes (it's become a regular at the Seder)
Side 2: *Sweet Potato Kugel (p. 173 TON)
Side 3: Boiled eggs (a custom)
I need a vegetable. Hm.
We don't serve a dessert at the Seder, and really don't eat a lot at the meal at all, since we eat so much matza and romaine lettuce at the Seder. So I keep the food pretty simple.

Lunch I – 6 adults
Appetizer: Sole Amandine x2, (EKC)
Soup: * Broccoli Soup (paper)
Main: * Balsamic Braised Brisket with Shallots and Potatoes, p. 134 PBD
Side 1: *Overnight Potato Kugel (bake before Yom Tov, then put in oven overnight after Seder)
Side 2: Zucchini-Kishke Kugel (Paper)
Side 3: Purple Cabbage Salad, p. 82 PBD
Dessert: Chocolate hazelnut torte (fabulous and decadent), chocolate bark (from mother-in-law)

Seder II – 8 adults
Appetizer: Salmon Gefilte Fish (also A&B; my in-laws love it)
Soup: Chicken Soup w/knaidlach (matza balls)
Main: Glazed chicken (using Bartenura wine glaze that I discovered this year)
Side 1: * Vegetable Puree, p. 118 PBD (great alternative to mashed potatoes)
Side 2: Tzimmes, recipe doubled (S&S)
Side 3: to be determined

Lunch II – 3 Adults
Appetizer: Cantaloupe
Soup: Cream of Asparagus Soup, p. 47 PBD
Main: Pot Roast, p. 147 PBD, ½
Side 1: Roasted Caramelized Carrots, p. 206 PBD, ½
Side 2: leftover Potato Kugel
Dessert: Torte, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies (paper), raspberry sorbet

The little abbreviations after some items are the cookbook's initials, so I know where to look up the recipe.
PBD = Passover By Design. This is the newest, hottest Pesach cookbook on the market. Susie Fishbein has published several cookbooks (my favorite is Kosher by Design Entertains)
. It really is for the most part a compilation of Passover-friendly recipes from her 4 other cookbooks, or recipes from the cookbooks that she made Passover friendly, but there are new recipes as well. It's convenient to have all of her Passover recipes in one place, as I was photocopying my other cookbooks to have recipes for Passover.

TON = A Taste of Nostalgia: Tales And Recipes to Nourish Body And Soul. This is a very sweet cookbook, compiled by a famous Hassidic Rebbe and psychiatrist, Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, and another author, Judi Dick. The recipes are grouped by holiday, and Rabbi Twerski provides wonderful background about each holiday, and how it was celebrated in the "old country" in Europe, or in his family in the U.S. It's absolutely fascinating and a wonderful read, and the recipes are very "haimish". If you're looking for very, very classic Jewish recipes, this is the cookbook to get.

For years, I could not master potato kugel. I tried recipe after recipe, and I just could not make something that I considered good. It seemed that all my sisters had the same problem as well. I picked this cookbook up on a bargain rack at a book stall in a pizza store in the Catskills(!), and decided to try their Overnight Potato Kugel recipe. You basically make the kugel like other typical recipes, but then leave it in the over overnight at 200 degrees, with a pan of water underneath. The kugel is UNBELIEVABLY DELICOUS. I think that my guests were close to tears. It's just that delicious. Since I have guests sleeping over after the Seder, and I'm serving a seuda (festive meal) the following morning, and the oven is on anyways (we don't turn appliances off and on during the first two days of the holiday), I'll take the opportunity to make this kugel. I can't wait!

EKC = Enlitened Kosher Cooking. This is an interesting cookbook written by Nechama Cohen of the Jewish Diabetes Association. All the recipes are very low in fat and carbs, and easy to prepare. I have to admit that I don't always follow exactly what she directs you to do (for example, to save fat she has a specific way of sauteing leeks and onions; I just saute onions my way, and skip the leeks, which scare me). I've discovered some great salads and soups in this cookbook, and am slowly trying other recipes. Last year I took the cookbook to work and photocopied about 20 recipes for Passover.

Paper - this means that I got the recipe from someone else, or off the Internet, and I did not keep track of the source. The Broccoli Soup and Zuchini Kishke kugel recipes are from a small Pesach cookbook that a Yeshiva mailed as a fundraiser this year. My in-laws, who are eating 3 or 4 meals at my house let me review it and photocopy a bunch of recipes.

S&S: Spice and Spirit: The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook. This is a must-have cookbook for any kosher kitchen. It has all the traditional Jewish recipes that you could possibly need, and it has a nice guide to many Jewish customs and holidays as well. The recipes are well-written and are indexed well. Some of my more famous recipes are in here, including Spiced String Beans, Mushroom and Rice Casserole, and their classic chocolate cake recipe. If you are looking for a traditional recipe, this is your go-to book. I have purchased this cookbook for all of my sisters, and many brides. They all thank me right after they get married. I've copied out some of my favorite recipes to use over Pesach. They *do* have two Pesach cookbooks, the original Spice and Spirit Kosher Passover cookbook and the new one, but they are much more limited than the year-round and other Pesach cookbooks that I own. The recipes are very simple, and use a limited range of ingredients. This cookbook is printed by Chabad Lubavitch, a hassidic sect, and they do not mix matza meal and water during the holiday, which makes the already-limited Pesach diet even more so. They also peel everything, including tomatoes. Thankfully, my husband is not that strict, and actually complains if I do not make something with matza meal in it.

I usually make something out of the The New York Times Passover Cookbook as well, but since I've been really stressed and probably will not have a whole lot of time to cook before Shabbos begins on Friday night, I skipped it this year. I do hope to make some of my favorites for the last days of the holiday, which take place next Saturday and the following Sunday. These recipes are a bit more complicated, but are really wonderful. By complicated, I mean that I had to run out on a holiday eve to do something, and asked my sister to make the one last dish for the meal that night, a mushroom stuffed chicken from this cookbook.

When I came back, she was NOT HAPPY with me, and informed me that I was crazy for even THINKING of making this recipe, and had made something else. So yes, some of these recipes are a little more labor intensive. On the other hand, this same sister found a potato-vegetable kugel recipe in this cookbook that got rave reviews at her mother-in-law's house, and she now makes 3 or 4 of them every Pesach.

* the asterisks indicate that I should make this before the holiday or Shabbos begins. Usually the recipe requires a food processor or my trusty immersion blender, appliances that I cannot use during the holiday.

Now I must go finish the kitchen and get the cooking started! Have a wonderful, kosher holiday!

Update 4/18:
Margarine found. Tub margarine, but this will help for a couple of recipes, and to enliven the dry, dry matza. A local store went looking and found a supply. I'm impressed, since this store just stocks up once for Pesach, and doesn't care about anything after the first days of Pesach.

Also, for the first time EVAH, my kitchen is ready, the dishes are unpacked, and I've even cooked something, and it's not the morning of Pesach. Wow.

Oh, and I hurt all over. I need a massage.

Happy Pesach to those who celebrate it!

2 comments:

carina said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kowalczyk said...

Sounds so very yummy! Your Chinese Daughter will be so Blessed to have such a talented mommy like you! Trust me, she will be worth the wait, hang in there, God will keep you strong! Blessings, Jake and Mias' mama