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Marsha Feldstein and her mother Judy
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Holidays are when family recipes come out and bloom. They can come from all kinds of places. There are the ones that are passed hand to hand, scribbled on stained index cards or folded pieces of paper. Others can be ancient clippings from newspapers or magazines — or might have been torn decades ago from the back of a package. Wherever they come from, adjustments are made, ingredients added or taken away over the years, and all become specific to the family who makes them.
For the Feldstein family, Passover wouldn't be as meaningful if the food they have come to love wasn't on the table. However, as Conservative Jews, they make changes in the way they cook the rest of the year to keep the Seder meals kosher. Dairy is not an option and leavening is out. That means the matzo becomes a key ingredient.
Matzo, an important part of the Passover ritual, represents the flat bread the Jewish slaves made as they fled Egypt (they left before the bread could rise). For the meal itself, it becomes a way to make desserts and hold the dumplings together in matzo ball soup.
Marsha Feldstein invited me over for coffee in her large kitchen lined with lots of cabinets to talk about how her family celebrates the holiday.
"We get rid of all the bread, put away the pasta and cookies. We try to eat all of it the week before" the holiday, Feldstein says. "Then the kosher food comes in." For the first Seder, the women in the family start cooking. "The first night is for 60 people," she says. "We actually rent a place where the whole family can sit together. Some people from the community will be invited, but by and large, we're all related somehow."
"My mother, my aunt and some of the cousins will come in and set the table first — everyone gets a job. I'll do the charoses, and someone else will bring the gefilte fish or drinks. It's food for a lot of people."
Her aunt will bring her special matzo ball soup, the recipe for which is a secret from the rest of the family. "That's an all-day affair," says Feldstein. "She must make, I don't know, 125 matzo balls."
"But," she is quick to point out, "it's not a dinner party. It's a Seder. The food is symbolic and there's a protocol, an order to it." It's an important part of family, but more significantly, it's also a religious ceremony practiced each year at home.
Feldstein and her immediate family also celebrate the second night of Passover — which not every Jewish family does. "We either have it here or at my cousin's, and that's only about 20 to 24 people. My cousins have written their own Haggadah" — the text that codifies the Passover ceremony — "and it's very beautiful, very spiritual. In some ways because of that, it's the night that is most meaningful to me.
Matzo Ball Soup
- 3 quarts of homemade or purchased chicken broth*
- 2 tablespoons of chicken fat or vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup of matzo meal
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon of seltzer water
- 1 tablespoon of vodka
- 3 quarts of water
Beat together the chicken fat or vegetable oil and eggs. Add the matzo meal and salt. Mix well. Blend in the seltzer water and vodka. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.
Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Wet your hands with cold water and gently form balls about the size of walnuts (they will expand a lot). Reduce the heat so that the water simmers and then
carefully drop the balls into it. Simmer, covered, for about 30 to 40 minutes. Heat the chicken soup. When hot, pour into bowls. With a slotted spoon, remove the matzo balls from the water and place in the soup.
Recipe by Rachel Zell
- 1 7- to 10-pound beef brisket
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 14-ounce bottle of ketchup ⎟1 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
- 1 package of onion soup mix
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of horseradish (or to taste)
- Garlic salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup of water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In foil-lined roasting pan, scatter half of the chopped onion. Place the brisket, fat side down, on top of the onions. Season the brisket with garlic salt and pepper, and top with the remaining onions, carrots and celery. In a small bowl, mix the ketchup, tomato sauce, onion soup and horseradish. Pour the mixture over the vegetables and brisket. Add one cup of water
to the pan. Roast for 2 hours; remove and slice brisket across the grain. Place the sliced brisket back in the pan and cook for another 2 hours. Place brisket on a platter, and spoon vegetables and pan juices on top.
- 3 Granny Smith apples
- 3 red (Red Delicious, Gala, or Fuji) apples
- 2 tablespoons of cinnamon
- 1/2 to 1 cup of Manischewitz wine (or to taste)
- 1/2 to 1 cup of walnuts (or to taste)
Peel and chop apples. Toss in a bowl with the cinnamon, walnuts and wine. Refrigerate overnight before serving.
- 3 pounds of sweet potatoes
- 1 pound of carrots
- 1 cup of grated Granny Smith apple
- 1/2 cup of orange juice
- 1/2 cup of pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons of parve margarine (1/2 of a stick)
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon of allspice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 matzo, crushed
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons of melted parve margarine
Preheat oven to 350
degrees. Mix topping ingredients and set aside.
Peel carrots and sweet potatoes, and then cut into quarters. Add to a pot of boiling water and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, place in a bowl and mash. Fold in the juices, sugar, margarine, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt and pepper.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Scoop mixture into a casserole dish and bake for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the topping and bake for another 5 minutes or until the topping bubbles. This dish can be prepared ahead of time. Recipe by Rachel Zell
- 1 cup of parve margarine (1 stick)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of sliced almonds
- 1 box of matzo
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In one layer, line a nonstick cookie sheet with matzo. Sprinkle with almonds. Place the margarine, vanilla and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until margarine is melted, and the sugar is dissolved. Drizzle the mixture over the matzo and nuts. Bake until bubbly. Remove from the oven. Cool and break into pieces. Keep in an airtight container.
Wine Spice Cake
- 12 eggs, separated
- 2 cups of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger
- 1/3 cup of Manischewitz wine
- 1 1/2 cup of matzo cake meal
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups of chopped almonds
- 1 1/2 cups of raisins
DIRECTIONS Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the spices, wine, nuts, raisins and matzo cake meal. Mix well. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into the yolk mixture. Bake in large, ungreased angel food cake or Bundt cake pan for one hour. Cool upside down. When completely cooled, carefully remove pan.
A Passover Primer
Passover, also called Pesach, is April 19-25 this year. It's a time when Jewish families get together to remember and celebrate the exodus of the Jews from Egypt.
A ceremony on the first night of Passover celebrating the exodus symbolically. Some families celebrate a second night as well.
A retelling of the exodus (it details each of the 15 steps of the seder ceremony).
A platter holding the symbols of Passover
- Karpas: Generally parsley. It's dipped in salt water, which represents tears.
- Zeroa: A lamb shank bone to symbolize the lamb's blood that was put over the doors of Jewish homes on the night of the 10th plague — the slaughter of the first born — in Egypt. God is said to have "passed over" the houses marked in this way. It's also a symbol of the lamb sacrificed at the Temple after the exodus.
- Baitzah: A roasted egg to represent mourning for the loss of the two Temples (one destroyed by the Babylonians and one by the Romans). It also represents springtime, renewal and the strength of the Jewish people.
Rabbi Andrew Goodman teaches Jewish cooking classes at Beth Ahabah on West Franklin Street. Call 358-6757 for more information.
- Charoses: Apples, nuts and wine to symbolize the mortar between the bricks of the structures the slaves were forced to make.
- Maror: Bitter herbs (generally horseradish or perhaps parsley if not used to dip in salt water) to symbolize the bitterness of being a slave.
- Chazaret: Romaine lettuce to also represent bitterness.
- Matzo: On a separate plate and covered. It represents the flat bread the Jews took with them as they fled.