Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When Life Gives You Maror...

When Life Gives you Maror…
Make a Bloody Maror

I don’t know about you, but the whole idea of Passover makes me nervous. I give up all my favorite foods and really do not get much in return. Just thinking of digging around in my cabinets and boiling my household is giving me the willies. This year, to make this Chag different from all others, I am proposing we enjoy the holiday a lot more with some Passover cocktails.

The idea of Passover cocktails seems pretty foreign to many Jews and I am not sure why. The liquor companies go out of their way to make kosher for Passover products. Therefore…make a cocktail and really enjoy the Chag.

3 large stalks celery from the heart, including leaves, plus extra for serving
36 ounces tomato juice
3 teaspoons freshly grated horseradish
1 teaspoon grated yellow onion
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Lots of freshly cracked pepper
2 teaspoons kosher for Passover hot sauce or 1 jalapeno
1 1/2 cups kosher for Passover vodka

Suggested garnishes: celery stalks, carrot sticks, olives, pickles, salami, chopped sweet and hot peppers

1. Place all of the ingredients except the vodka in a blender and process until combined and fairly smooth.

2. Transfer the mix to a pitcher and stir in the vodka. Pour into tall glasses with ice and garnish with celery stalks, carrot sticks, olives, pickles, salami, chopped peppers

Passover without Plotzing!

While I understand why people feel the need to rely on these kosher-for-Passover products, I am writing this to tell you, you don’t have to! Artificial ingredients are often not good for you, and many of their more wholesome natural counterparts are kosher for Passover. I feed my family and friends only the best ingredients. I don’t mess around with faux foods created in laboratories. I am only going for the real thing.

My Passover philosophy is this: If I wouldn’t eat it during the rest of the year, I’m not going to eat it during Pesach. I would much rather truly mark this time as one separate and different from the rest of the year, and go eight days without cake, brownies, and pie than use matzo meal and non-dairy whipped cream topping that have that PESADICH taste. But, different doesn’t have to mean Spartan. Instead, try something new.

All extra virgin olive oils are kosher for Passover and year round, even without kosher supervision. How awesome is that? We may give up our breads and cakes for eight days, but we will emerge from the holiday having feasted on foods made with delicious and healthy extra virgin olive oil. You cannot say that about Passover cooking oil which tends to be harsh and bitter and not healthy like extra virgin olive oil. How much cooking time and how many ingredients do you need to cover up the taste of bad oil?

Because all extra virgin olive oils are kosher for Passover and year round, make sure you purchase a great oil. The oil should have a low acidity, be from a single farm or estate and should have been pressed with a few days of harvest. Many great oils will state their techniques on the label and will state that the oil was pressed on the day of harvest.

A great extra virgin olive oil may cost a bit more than mediocre oil, but remember, the people you are cooking for are family and friends and are worth the health benefits and deliciousness of a great meal.
The smart money, when purchasing food for the holiday, is to spend it on healthy and wholesome products. The fact that extra virgin olive oil can be used all year round makes this a no brainer.


Traditionally this Mediterranean fish stew is garnished with grilled toast that has been schmeared with aioli. For Passover, I am leaving out the toast (duh!) and adding creamy fingerling potatoes to the delicious concoction to add a bit of heartiness. A generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and dollop of garlicky aioli and you have an amazing entrée or starter for the Seder or Chol Hamoed days.

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 medium leeks (white parts only), sliced thinly
3 medium carrots, sliced thinly
1 large fennel bulb, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of crushed red chili flakes (optional)
2 15-ounce cans of plum tomatoes with their juices, crush the tomatoes with your hands*
2 teaspoons saffron threads
1 FRESH bay leaf
2 tablespoons fresh orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1 quart fumet (see recipe)
1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut into ½ inch thick coins
2 pounds skinless halibut filets (or other lean fish such as: snapper or cod) cut into large chunks
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Suggested garnishes: homemade aioli, fresh chervil, additional lemon and orange zest

1. Place a large saucepan or stock pot, coated with the olive oil, over medium heat. Sweat the leeks until they are very soft and fragrant (about 10 minutes). Add the carrots and fennel and continue cooking until all of the vegetables have softened (about 15 minutes). Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is very fragrant (about 2 minutes).

2. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the halibut, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. The Bourride can at this point be cooled and stored, covered, in the refrigerator and brought back to a simmer before serving.

3. About 20 minutes before serving, bring the Bourride to a simmer, add the fish pieces and simmer, covered, until the fish is firm and opaque (about 15 minutes).

4. Divide the Bourride in large serving bowls, generously drizzle with tasty extra virgin olive oil, dollop with aioli and sprinkle with fresh chervil.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Aioli

The butter of Provence! This creamy and delicious aioli trumps the store bought stuff and is easy to make.

The aioli can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Be sure to choose an extra virgin olive oil that has a soft and subtle flavor. I favor a product from France that is buttery with an apricot flavored finish.

4 egg yolks
3 garlic cloves, mashed to a puree with a knife or food processor
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 anchovy filets, optional
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1 ½ cups best quality extra virgin olive oil

1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the garlic, lemon juice, anchovies (if using) and salt and pepper until a smooth paste.

2. Drop by drop, whisk in the olive oil until a thick aioli begins to form. You can do this in a food processor or by hand (I DO IT ALL THE TIME BY HAND AND HAVE KILLER BICEPS!).

3. Once the aioli begins to form, you start to add the oil in a bit faster. If the aioli appears to be too thick, add a bit more lemon juice.

4. Store the aioli covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.
Fish Stock

I always have homemade stocks in my freezer and Passover is not exception. I can have a sumptuous dinner on the table in minutes when I have some fresh vegetables, herbs and stock. For this spring, I am craving delicate Fumet used as a base for my favorite fish stew and to delicately poach the first of the season’s halibut. This rich fumet is also the base for Gefilte Fish (my husband will insist on one Seder featuring HIS favorite starter).

Ask your fish monger to save some FRESH bones or fish frames for you. This will ensure a delicate fumet.

(Fumet de Poisson)

Yield: ½ gallon

1 ounce olive oil
½ medium onion, thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 leek, white part only, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 pounds fish frames and heads (gills removed) from lean fish such as sole, snapper, or whiting
15 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups dry white wine
2 quarts cold water or enough to just cover the fish bones
10 whole peppercorns

1. Place the oil in a medium stock pot over low heat. Sweat the onions and shallots until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the leek, celery, and mushrooms and sweat for 5 minutes more. Be very careful not to caramelize the vegetables as this will discolor the final stock.

2. Add the fish frames and heads, parsley stems, bay leaf, and thyme. Cook gently over low heat until the fish frames turn opaque.

3. Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the wine by half.

4. Add the water and stir well. Add the peppercorns and mushrooms and bring to a boil. Skim the surface of any impurities and fat and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Allow the fumet to simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to steep for an additional 10 minutes.

5. Strain the finished fumet through a fine mesh sieve or a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Allow the fumet to cool completely before covering and refrigerating or freezing. Fumet can be made up to a month ahead of time and stored in the freezer.

Chef Laura Ingredient Hint

*When tomatoes are not in season, I only purchase whole canned tomatoes for 2 reasons. I want to decide how large I want my tomato pieces to be, not the processor and when the tomatoes are whole I am assured of their quality. A chopped tomato in the can was probably not the best tomato to start with and was chosen to be chopped. The canner saved the best quality tomatoes and chose to keep those whole. Those are the tomatoes I want and so do you!

Extra fumet after making Bourride? Here is my recipe for Gefilte Fish. Enjoy!

Gefilte Fish

Makes 16 fish quenelles

½ gallon fish stock
2 carrots, sliced into 16 slices for garnish
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
2 teaspoons sugar or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup matzo meal
2 pounds ground cod, pike, carp, or favorite white fish

1. Bring fish stock to a simmer in a large stock pot and add the sliced carrot.

2. Place the onion, eggs, salt, sugar, parsley, thyme, and pepper into the bowl of a food processor. Process to a puree.

3. Pour egg mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the bread crumbs. Stir to combine.

4. Add the ground fish and mix very well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for ½ hour.

5. To form fish quenelles, wet hands and shape about ½ cup of fish mixture into oval patties. You should have 16 ovals.

6. Gently place the fish into the simmering stock. Cover, and allow to gently simmer for 30 minutes.

7. After 30 minutes, turn off heat and allow the pot to cool. Gently lift the quenelles from the stock and arrange them in a deep serving dish. Place a carrot slice on each quenelle.

8. Reduce remaining stock by half and carefully pour into the serving dish. Be sure quenelles are completely covered by stock.

9. Refrigerate overnight. A firm aspic will form around the fish.

10. Serve with horseradish sauce and jellied aspic.