Good Advice: Keep ‘Weird’ Off the Menu

Although the temptation of cooking new dishes for Passover lurks in my mind every year, I always can remember my mother's warning of not to "cook anything too weird." She's right, of course, as usual.

The tried-and-true traditional Ashkenazic family recipes may seem a bit boring to the cook, but the guests take comfort in them as being familiar, offering no negative surprises and presenting tastes they know, love and remember from previous seders. In these trying times, any kind of comfort you can offer is well-appreciated, and serves to some as a security blanket. When you think about it, that's what "comfort food" is all about.

So even today, I use my mother's recipes, almost exactly as she made them, but sneaking in subtle twists that make them a bit more contemporary, with fresh, flavorful ingredients tailored to more health-conscious needs.

So here's to you, Mom, for passing down these delicious, treasured holiday recipes that hopefully will be carried on by my children, who will choose not to make anything "too weird" for Pesach.

Mock 'Chopped Liver'


3 Tbsps. pareve margarine
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 lb. brown mushrooms, coarsely chopped
4 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
salt and pepper

Heat margarine in a medium skillet.

Add the onion and sauté until wilted. Add the mushrooms and cook until mushroom liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Let cool.

In a food processor, chop mushroom mixture with eggs until evenly combined.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with matzah crackers.

Makes about 11/2 cups.


Matzah Balls With Fresh Herbs and Carrot


2 Tbsps. oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup matzah meal
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsps. kosher-for-Passover chicken stock
2 tsps. each chopped dill, chopped chives, chopped parsley
1 small carrot, finely grated
3 Tbsps. salt

To make the matzah balls, mix all the ingredients, plus 1 teaspoon of salt, together in a bowl using a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Fill a 5- to 8-quart pot three-quarters of the way with cold water, and bring to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons salt.

With cold, wet hands, form the matzo mixture into 1-inch balls. Drop, one at a time, into boiling water.

Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Remove the matzah balls from the water with a slotted spoon. Serve in soup.

Makes about 12.


Onion-Braised Brisket With Sundried Tomatoes


1 center cut brisket, 4 to 5 lbs.
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), cut into strips
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1/2 cup kosher-for-Passover beef or chicken stock
1/2 cup kosher-for-Passover red wine

Trim almost all of the excess fat from brisket and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Make a paste of the oregano, thyme, garlic and olive oil.

Spread over both sides of the brisket. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 300°.

Place brisket in a roasting pan. Pour tomato mixture over brisket.

Cover pan tightly with foil.

Bake 31/2 to 4 hours, basting every hour with accumulated juices. Remove brisket and tomato mixture to a platter. Degrease pan juices and pour over meat.

Refrigerate overnight for easier slicing. Slice, and reheat with tomato mixture and pan juices before serving.

Serves 8.


Ginger-Chocolate Sponge Cake


8 eggs, separated
2 Tbsps. lemon juice
2 Tbsps. grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
11/2 cups sugar
1 cup matzah cake meal

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease bottom of a 9-inch tube pan.

In a large bowl, beat yolks until thick. Stir in lemon juice, ginger and chocolate until well-combined.

In another large bowl, beat the whites until foamy. Continue beating, adding sugar 1/4 cup at a time, until stiff peaks form.

Stir some whites into yolk mixture. Fold remaining whites into yolk mixture along with cake meal. Turn mixture into prepared pan.

Bake 50 minutes, or until the cake tests done when a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into cake.

Turn cake upside-down and let cool completely. Remove cake from pan and turn right-side up.

Serves 10.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.



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