Monthly Archives: April 2011

Passover 2011–where’s the beef?

I know, it’s not technically Passover anymore. Time to move on. But I couldn’t let this holiday season pass without talking, ever-so-quickly, about Molly, my Jew-cooking partner in crime.

Or, more specifically, her brisket.

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Passover 2011–the main event

This is a post about balls.

A controversial topic, to be sure. Some people grew up with them; some didn’t. When it comes to taste, some like them soft and giving, others firm and round. Some like them small, compact, easy on the tongue; some want them so big you couldn’t fit them in your mouth even if you tried. There are some people who don’t even like them at all, but–if we’re being truly honest–that’s something I just can’t identify with.

Traditionally, especially in the springtime, these balls are often consumed alongside a hunk of beef–though, again, some folks just don’t swing that way. But at least everyone can agree on how the whole thing gets started: a thick paste of eggs and ground matzo, shaped into spheres and simmered in salted water or broth.

Wait, what did you think I meant?

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Passover 2011–GRAAAAAIIIIIIINS

So apparently I’m 2-for-2 on delicious gluten-free Passover dishes that might not actually be kosher for Passover.  But nevermind that.  Let’s talk about quinoa.

I’ve been vowing for years to get more quinoa in my diet.  If all those breathless news articles are to be believed, it’s a new superfood.  It’s exotic–all the way from Peru!  It’s ancient–the Inca ate it!  It’s full of protein and wholesome whole-grain goodness!  What’s not to like!

I’ve been making tentative progress.  In college, I would mix red quinoa and ranch dressing into a bowl of mashed potatoes.  Somehow I managed to convince myself that the little extra protein boost from those little scarlet orbs canceled out the giant gummy forkfuls of potato I was stuffing into my face.  As I got more, um…sophisticated, I started encountering quinoa salads, pleasant little pops of grain swarming around beans and green vegetables and even tofu, overwhelming me with texture and freshness and wholesome earnest appeal.

But on its own, as a stand-in for less virtuous starches, quinoa was…lacking.  I’ve never been much a fan of food that pretends to be something it’s not, and when I was faced with tiny hardy orbs, heaped sheepishly in a bowl, almost apologetic for not being rice or couscous, I was understandably nonplussed.

Stand alone, I silently implored the quinoa.  Make something of yourself.  Don’t be shy.

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Passover 2011–the side dish

My father grew up in a kosher household in Brooklyn. When he was 16, he went to a Yankees game during Passover. Without thinking about it, he got a hot dog. You know, like you do. Then, halfway through the wiener, he realized his error. A hot dog! On a bun! During Passover!

He stopped and considered. The sun was shining. The Yanks were winning. God hadn’t sent down a thunderbolt and incinerated him right there in his bleacher seat. So he said what the hell, finished the hot dog, and never kept kosher again.

In this, as in so many other things, I am my father’s daughter. Judaism, for me, is rather like the Pirates’ Code. I’ve never kept kosher in my life, and certainly never for Passover. So it’s no surprise that I only thought I was being clever when I came up with a recipe using a non-wheat flour for my family’s early seder this weekend. But, as it turns out, I used chickpeas. And chickpeas are not kosher for Passover, at least if you’re Ashkenazi. Whoops.

But I still served my dish, and it was delicious. So…there.

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The quest continues…

It seems I’ve turned my search for potato chip alternatives into a multi-part series. So let’s call this the Salty Crunch Saga, Part 2.

Once again, we start with leftovers. I had a few handfuls of grated Parmesan left over from making pesto, and not a whole lotta idea how to put it to use.  So it just sat in the fridge, for a week, slowly taking on the texture and general appearance of shredded Styrofoam.  Finally I pulled the bowl out and resolved to, y’know, do something with it.

I remembered, one time, long ago, some Food Network chef on some Food Network show had mounded grated Parm on a baking sheet and turned it into crackers.  Hmmm, I said.  I wonder, I said.  So I tried it.  The result was amazing, crisp and lacy and delicate–and it turns out the Italians have been in on this secret for eons.

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The willy-nilly sandwich

I was a Theater major in college (playwright, not actor, don’t go all diva-shaming on me now).  One of the pieces of advice most pressed on us in our lessons on craft was the importance of research.  When you’re creating a character, you have to go as deep as possible into every nook and cranny you can find, and pull together all the context and factual evidence and analysis you can muster.  You have to create this fully-fleshed conception, right down to tattoos and breakfast cereal and all sorts of pieces that the audience may never hear of.

And then when it’s go time, you throw it all away.  You set aside all that exacting work, and leap into the unknown.

It’s not a stretch to say that I live my whole life this way.  I’m about the opposite of spontaneous.  I’m shy and neurotic, and I overthink everything.  I spend days planning what I might say in a phone conversation, and weeks thinking up a single night’s meal.  But more often than not, when the time comes for action, I end up ignoring all my well-laid mental plans and making it up as I go along.

Seems to have served me all right so far.

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Xocolatl

Short post today, because the mercury dropped about 20 degrees today and the wind picked up about 20 miles an hour, and my commute today made me feel an awful lot like Winnie the Pooh being buffeted about in his nightie.  I’m just counting the minutes until it’s seemly for me to crawl into bed under my giant green fluffy blanket and sleep through the rest of this freakazoid day.  And I could talk about vegetables and seafood and olive oil and herbs and nice blood-sugar-pampering things until I’m blue in the face, but I’m just too drained, and I don’t have any good photos to share, and…

Look, I just want some damn hot chocolate.  Is that too much to ask?

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