April 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm (Menus)
We hosted our third Passover seder this year in Saarbruecken. Including ourselves and Derek’s parents, we had a total of 13 people at our seder, which was a nice number (and also the maximum that we could fit at our tables). Amazingly we had enough dishes and silverware and even wine glasses, but what we didn’t have enough of was chairs. Three unlucky guests ended up sitting in some pretty uncomfortable folding chairs for many, many hours. Hopefully the food made up for some of the discomfort! Our menu was pretty similar to the menu from our 2011 seder, except we swapped the honey cake for some simpler almond-lemon cookies, and we dropped the salad entirely.
- Appetizers (before the start of the seder): two kinds of olives, cornichons, homemade hummus, and crudite
- Appetizers (during the seder): Hillel sandwiches with 2 kinds of apple charosetz, beet horseradish, and homemade horseradish puree
- Soup: Indian matzoh ball soup in homemade vegetable broth, with carrots, parsnips, turnips and herb garnishes
- Main course: spinach matzoh pie and tsimmes
- Side dish: none!
- Dessert: toffikomen and almond-lemon cookies
Except for the hummus this menu would be appropriate for an Ashkenazi seder (where beans and rice are avoided).
Two nights before the seder I made the toffikomen (one cookie-sheet full, which was just over four matzohs worth). I stored it in the freezer. We served it directly out of the freezer, and it was a tad too cold for my taste. I think next year I’d take it out a bit sooner, but Derek and his parents disagreed.
The day before the day of the seder my friend Jessica came over to help and together we made both kinds of charoset, hummus (with four cups of chickpeas), and the batter for the almond-lemon cookies.
The day of the seder I started cooking around 8:30 am and except for a few short breaks didn’t stop until about 6pm. The first thing I did was start on the vegetable broth. I had several large bags of vegetable scraps in the freezer, which was a good start. Then I prepped all the vegetables I’d need for the seder (leeks, onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, parsley, bell peppers, fennel, …) and added all the ends and peels to the pot, along with a piece of kombu, lots of ginger, a few cloves of garlic, a few white mushrooms, a few dried shiitakes, a couple bay leaves, a star anise, some cloves, and two stalks of lemongrass, along with the toasted and ground coriander and fenugreek seeds suggested in Floyd Cardoz’s broth recipe.
I followed the Floyd Cardoz recipe for Indian matzoh balls except that I increased the salt a bit and substituted ghee for the chicken schmalz. I made two recipes (two cups of matzoh meal), which yielded 34 small matzoh balls. Jessica and I formed the balls ahead of time and then left them in a bowl in the fridge. I added the pre-rolled matzoh balls to the simmering broth right before we started Dayenu, and it was a little bit too late. We had to wait about ten minutes after we finished our Hillel sandwiches before the matzoh balls were ready. I added the vegetables to the broth after the matzoh balls had been cooking for about fifteen minutes. The broth took a while to come back to a simmer, and I checked it about ten minutes thereafter. At that point the matzoh balls seemed cooked through but the vegetables were quite soft. The matzoh balls came out tasty, but a bit smaller and firmer than I would have liked. I made them a bit small I think. Next time I’d make them a little bit bigger than gold-ball sized.
This year I doubled the apple walnut honey charoset recipe and made one recipe of the pistachio cranberry charoset. But our apples were quite large, so I think I actually ended up making slightly more than three recipes total. Almost all the pistachio cranberry charoset got eaten, and a little over half of the walnut charoset. But the leftovers got eaten up pretty quickly over the next few days. We bought two small jars of beet horseradish and a little over 1.5 jars got eaten.
I also (for the first time ever) tried my hand at making my own horseradish puree. I took a large piece of horseradish root, peeled it, cut it into chunks and added it to the blender, then added water to cover it and two ice cubes. I pureed it and let it sit for a few minutes, then added 3 tablespoons of white vinegar. Derek took a small taste of it shortly after I made it and almost went into convulsions it was so hot. He said his entire left arm and left side of his head felt slightly numb for about thirty minutes. But several hours later, by the time we served it at the seder, it had grown much more mild, and was only very hot, not deadly. It was a little bit too watery, but otherwise not bad at all.
I made the spanomatzika (spinach feta matzoh pie) again this year, but I only made 1 1/2 recipes. Almost the entire thing got eaten. To go with the spinach pie I decided to make a somewhat non-traditional tsimmes. I filled my large dutch oven to the top with carrots and sweet potatoes and prunes, but I ended up cooking it too long or too high and the sweet potatoes mostly fell apart and the whole thing ended up overly sweet and a bit underseasoned (not enough ginger or lemon flavors). It wasn’t great, and (possibly as a result) we had a lot of leftovers. I think next year I wouldn’t cook it in a dutch oven, but in a pyrex pan in the oven, and then just reheat it on the stovetop.
The almond lemon cookies came out very pretty, with a nice lemon flavor, but a bit too sweet for my taste. I think next time I’ll instead look for a recipe for more traditional fluffy coconut macaroons.
In preparation for Passover we also tested out this original (non-vegan) cauliflower leek kugel recipe and found it quite bland and not particularly interesting.