Thursday, April 9, 2009

My First Passover

I have to hand it to my friend Steph, last night's Passover dinner was amazing! When we were invited, I didn't know what to expect. Bring Kosher wine? But what's Kosher mean? Should I wear a dress? Am I supposed to bring a gift? Will Drew be wearing a yamika?

I went a little early because I donated my supper club set up to help seat the 18 people that attended. Now, 18 people for ANYTHING is aggressive especially in a San Francisco apartment. She had converted her entire living room and hallway into a dinning room. This was a valiant effort given that Steph's not Jewish AND it was her birthday. And that was truly the best part of the evening.

Steph has been studying Judaism and is serious about converting. Is it for her boyfriend of 5 years? Nope. She just digs it and reads up on it like a historian. Every questions I asked had an answer. But what I found most interesting was the meal and the ceremony around it. This was a group of young adults that called their parents for traditional recipes and took great pride in their dishes. Russ showed up with a brisket that had been simmering in caramelized onions and tomatoes for over 5 hours. Let me tell you, this thing was good. And, he said, Jews eat leftover brisket for days just like a Thanksgiving turkey. Ideas for brisket sandwiches bounced around my head...a toasted baguette with horseradish, brisket, caramelized onions and arugula. Yum.

But the star of the night was the Matzo ball soup. I think the combination of being pretty hungry coupled with reading the Haggadah and the 4 glasses of wine your instructed to consume during the ceremony had something to do with it but it really hit the spot. I made a joke that waiting so long to eat was torture but I guess that's what you are supposed to feel. You see, Jews honor their history and suffrage. I was supposed to starve in remembrance. La chaim!

Matzo Ball Soup
  1. 8 large eggs, beaten
  2. 1/3 cup olive oil
  3. 1 cup seltzer or club soda
  4. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  5. 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  7. 2 cups matzo meal (10 ounces)
  1. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 1 cup coarsely chopped dill
  3. 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh horseradish
  4. 1 garlic clove
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  7. 1 medium turnip, peeled and finely diced
  8. 1 celery rib, finely diced
  9. 1 large carrot, finely diced
  10. 5 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  11. 8 cups diced chicken (3/4 inch), from two 3 1/2-pound chickens


  1. Make the Matzo Balls: In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the olive oil, seltzer, salt, white pepper and ginger. Add the matzo meal and stir until moistened. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper. Scoop the matzo meal mixture into fifty 1-inch balls. Using lightly moistened hands, roll the matzo balls until smooth. Transfer to the baking sheets and refrigerate the matzo balls briefly.
  3. Meanwhile, Make the Pistou: In a blender or food processor, pulse the olive oil with the dill, fresh horseradish, garlic, salt and white pepper until the dill is finely chopped and a sauce has formed.
  4. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the turnip, celery and carrot and cook the vegetables until they are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water.
  5. In a large pot of boiling salted water, simmer the matzo balls over very low heat, covered, until they are plump and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the stock with the vegetables. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the matzo balls to the soup; simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook until heated through. Serve the soup in bowls with a dollop of the dill pistou.
    The recipe can be prepared through Step 3; refrigerate overnight.


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