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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Prepping for Passover

We'll host a lot of people for Passover Seder this year. I read the Wikipedia entry for Seder and learned that it was always a holiday where strangers were asked to share in the bounty. Part of the tradition. I remember that from my childhood - my Grandmother Mary would organize a big Seder table, with a collection of widows and single people and kids often numbering in the 20's - a very big gathering for our small family.

I started making lists and reviewing recipes earlier this week,. I'm using some of my really old family cookbooks to find traditional recipes. I have one book called "The Jewish House Beautiful" - I would say it's more reform than most! [There is a very odd recipe for Individual Candle desserts, involving canned pineapple rings and 1/2 bananas (don't ask.)] I like their instructions for setting the Pesah table, and the recipe for matzo balls, kneidlach, in this book.

I also used the New Settlement Cookbook. This one is inscribed to my father's mother Doris, from Hattie Cohn. The cover of the book says "The way to a man's heart." I like the recipes in this book for sponge cake.

While I am using all these reference books, I've decided to test out some new ideas. I'm calling this a Revisionist Seder.

We'll read the Hagaddah with vigor - I love to hear it and with a lot of people, things move along pretty quickly.

There are only two Jews out of 10, maybe 15 people... how can I possibly serve them Gefilte Fish? Fish only a Jew could love. And Dennis simply can't stand the smell of hard boiled eggs, so I have to moderate the HBEgg program.

I have ideas.

Today I tested a recipe for Salmon/Smoked Trout Rillette. It's yummy! A much better option, I think, and if formed into small "disks", and served with a roasted beet salad, freshly grated horseradish, and diced up preserved lemon, it's a little riff on the traditional.

Here is a photo of the rillettes I made today, just to practice and taste. I think they will taste even better tomorrow or the next day, when the flavors meld.

Smoked Trout and Salmon Rillette
Serves 12

Poach 8 oz salmon. Carefully flake with fingers, removing all bones. Set aside.
Emulsify 5 oz unsalted butter w/1 oz olive oil. Mix really well with a fork until very smooth.
Stir in 4 oz smoked trout, chopped fine; juice of one lemon; 2 T chopped chives; 1/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1 T capers, salt & pepper.
Fold in salmon gently, but thoroughly.
Form using a 1-1/2" cookie cutter into disks. Chill well for at least one day to develop flavors.

I'll serve them with homemade crackers - a sort of flatbread/matzo (no yeast) made with whole wheat flour, scallions and chives.

As usual, I'm going completely overboard. I remembered today that my mother would prepare Seder after work - when she got home - and still have it on the table by sundown. It's really not that complicated. But evidently, I'm going to do my best to make it so.

For the egg? My grandmother always served hard boiled eggs in salt water. I'm going to serve frissee salad with a poached egg and smoked salt. Feelin' pretty clever, actually.

The Farm 2009

The squirrels dug up nearly every one of the 5,000 bulbs planted last fall. This is what it looked like this morning. After I filled all the holes yesterday. It's really heartbreaking!

Decided to make lemonade from those lemons, so we have made some changes, done some transplanting, and cleared a space about 4' x 4' (with an unfortunate downhill grade.)

Yesterday Dennis helped me clear all the vinca (I'm starting to hate the stuff, even at this time of year when all the pretty blue flowers are showing.) Planted some peas around the teepee and the tuteur. Some short rows of mache, arugula and a heritage lettuce called Pandero. I can't wait.

This is what Thompson-Morgan (my go-to seed source) says about Pandero "Sweet and tasty, miniature 'cos' lettuces with deep red leaves from a young age, so can be used as 'baby leaves' as well as 'hearts'." All I know is it's very pretty.

Below the stone wall, I made short rows of radishes, and sprinkled dill and parsley seed generously in two other areas. I've got more Italian lettuces in a pot on the table, and another container of parsley on the stone wall. (I use a lot of parsley, plus the Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies like it a lot.)

So, the farm is started. There are all sorts of things sprouting under grow lights in the basement, too. More about that in another post.