Ahh, the spring holidays are upon us. Passover and Easter—a time when both Jews and Christians sit down to their culinary ritual feasts. For Passover, there is an abundance of gastronomic symbolism at the Seder that commemorates the exodus from Egypt and the deliverance of the Jewish people from Pharaoh’s oppressive rule. The matzo, also called the bread of affliction, is flat and unleavened because the Jews, in their haste to leave Egypt, did not wait for the yeast in their dough to rise. The charoset, I was taught, resembles the bricks and mortar that the Jews in slavery to Pharaoh were forced to work with.
The Easter meal as well, has its share of symbolic foods. The Easter eggs, the bunnies, and baby chicks symbolize rebirth and renewal. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The leg of lamb dinner is the central symbol of Easter, corresponding to Christ, The Lamb of God. Breads—in particular, hot cross buns—symbolize the religious offering of bread.
In both cases, these meals are set in tradition, and are a bringing together of family and friends. That’s probably why I love these holidays so much.
However, if I could change one thing about these meals, do you know what it would be? If you’re interested, read on.
Did you ever notice how brown the food is at these holiday meals? If you listen to Anne Burrell, a chef on the Food Network, whom I happen to love, she says, “Brown food tastes good.” And she’s right. Most brown food is crispy, fatty, salty, chocolaty, and oh so yummy. But these celebrations go way overboard with their popular pale pallet. Let’s see, Passover has a brown shank bone, brown roasted egg, brownish charoset, tan chopped liver, ecru gefilte fish, beige matzo in boards and balls, khaki-colored kugel and the star—bronze brisket. I’m not saying it’s not tasty, because it truly is, right down to the last brown chocolate macaroon. The Easter meal isn’t much better, with beige ham or brown leg of lamb, and some very sort of pale potatoes, scalloped, roasted, or made into a salad. I know, you all throw in some peas or asparagus to highlight the spring’s bounty, but can we add even more color to make it healthier?
Here are some ideas….
The Sedar Plate
This is off limits to change. These symbolic foods are set in bricks and mortar.
Traditional Chopped Liver with Matzo
Add some colorful and healthy raw veggies to your chopped liver hors d’oeuvre platter along with the matzo. Here’s a really good recipe for Mock Chopped Liver for my vegetarian family and friends, as well as those who can’t even fathom eating a chicken’s liver.
6 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced in ¼-inch slices
3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives for garnish, (optional)
In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and sauté until caramelized and dark brown. This could take about 20 minutes or more.
Remove onions to a plate to cool.
Using the same pan, add 3 more tablespoons of oil and heat again over medium-high heat.
Add the sliced mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms until they soften and release their juices.
Continue to cook mushrooms until they are very brown, about 5 more minutes.
Remove mushrooms to a plate to cool.
In a food processor or blender add the onions, mushrooms, hard boiled eggs, walnuts, salt, and pepper.
Pulse a few times, and then scrape down the side of the bowl. Continue pulsing and scraping the bowl down until the mixture is well blended. Blend until there are no walnut pieces visible.
Serve immediately or refrigerate (actually better) for a few hours or overnight.
Serve with matzo and raw veggies.
Matzo Ball Soup
There are no photographs for these foods because I was having a hard time figuring out how to make brisket, chicken and kugel more colorful. I’m open to suggestions. If any of you have some ideas, please feel free to post a comment and share your thought with us all.
Honey sponge cake, chocolate covered matzo, and tea. Add some fresh fruit, for color and health.
Spring Pea Soup and Deviled Eggs
The recipe I used to make this leg of lamb is from, Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa, Family Style Cookbook.
It was really easy to make. The best part is, you cook the lamb and the potatoes in the same roasting pan. As Ina says, “How easy is that?”
Add a green vegetable which will make the table pretty, and make your body pretty, and relieve some of the guilt from sneaking those incredibly colorful Peeps from your kids’ Easter basket.
Hot Cross Buns, Easter cookies, and fruit.
I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday. Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, both, or neither, may this be a time of personal reflection and growth, as well as a time of hope and renewal.
Until next time, (in two weeks)