Stuff Your Way Through the Week


In biblical times, long stalks of barley and lush fields of green garlic signaled that Passover was near. The holiday’s food was a reflection of the harvest.

In today’s industrialized society, where our foods are imported from around the world, seasons and their unique foods often have become meaningless.

Now Phyllis and Miriam Glazer’s new cookbook, "The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking," takes us back in time to celebrate the foods of ancestral Israel, where our holidays originated.

"We discovered that [since] the roots of the festivals were in nature, then the food had to reflect that," Phyllis said.

Their cookbook features one of the latest trends in cooking, informally known as "seasonal cooking," where chefs scour local markets and use the produce nature intended for their daily specials.

The festival of Passover, the first month of the Jewish lunar New Year, opens the book with delectable treats highlighting the earth’s renewal from the dormant winter months. Jews used the resources that were available to them. As they found themselves dispersed around the world, they adopted new symbols for the holidays. The recipes reflect the culinary traditions of both worlds. The European invention of gefilte fish and the British tradition of lemon curd on Pesach were not, of course, fare in ancient times, yet they pop up in many Jewish homes.

More than just recipes, the book is laden with the historical and religious origins of the symbols marking Passover. Miriam, a professor of literature at the University of Judaism and a rabbinical student at the Zeigler School of Rabbinic Studies, was responsible for adding the commentary to the book. She reveals the origins of the hagaddah, the seder plate, matzah and kitniot (the Sephardic tradition of eating legumes). The book, Miriam said, "is about rediscovering our heritage and the richness of it, and how our cuisine has echoed the miracle of our survival all over the world."

The cookbook gave the Glazers a chance to rediscover their sisterly bond, since Miriam moved away from their home in New York when Phyllis was a young girl.

"The love for healthy food and cooking has been in our family for generations, and it has been a precious opportunity to reconnect with each other, with our mom and, in absentia, with our grandmother in the process of doing this," Miriam said.

Although the process was rewarding, the sisters faced challenges. Phyllis, a well known food writer in Israel, and Miriam, a published scholar, had to find a way to weld their different writing styles.

"We screamed at each other over the phone," Phyllis said.

The cookbook highlights many recipes for all of the Jewish holidays, and recognizes a time to bond with family over food. Food is a major component of Passover — ridding the house of chametz, preparing the kitchen, assembling the seder plate and, of course, making the meal. The preparations for Passover are often what makes the holiday memorable. Everyone wants to contribute, even the little kids, and moms are always searching for ways to engage them, while keeping them away from the hot stove.

Stuffing food is a safe way to involve the kids in the cooking tradition. Walnut-and-Herb-Stuffed Eggplant, Iraqi Chicken-Stuffed Patties and Marzipan-Stuffed Dates are some of the many delicious recipes where kids can lend a helping hand. Moshe b’Tayva (Moses in the Basket), is a kitschy spin on marzipan-stuffed dates traditionally served at a Memunah, the celebration immediately following Pesach for North African Jews. Kids can roll out body parts for baby Moses and stuff them in the large Medjool dates — symbolic of the basket in which he floated.

When children grow up, they will remember the seder, but more so they will reminisce about the foods. The Glazers hoped to reclaim our old and new traditions through food, and give those who have no culinary history an opportunity to tap into the rich flavors of Jewish festival cuisine.

"I realized that if we do not pass on things with meaning to our children then we will have been responsible for the demise of those things," Phyllis said. "We can pass on food with meaning."

Nanuchka’s Fabulous Walnut-and-Herb-Stuffed Eggplant

Contributed by Phyllis’ best friend, Natasha Krantz, this Georgian (former Soviet Union) recipe of rich walnuts herbs and spices is perfect for an appetizer. Make extra of this flavorful filling and spread it over matzah as a snack.

3 3/4 pounds eggplant (two or three medium size)

Coarse sea salt or kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups walnut halves (about 1 pound)

2 medium garlic cloves, pressed (1 tablespoon)

1/2 teaspoon white or red wine vinegar

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1 small dried hot pepper or cayenne to taste

1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro

1/3 cup packed chopped fresh Italian parsley

Cut the stem end off the eggplant and slice the eggplant lengthwise into 3/8-inch slices. Sprinkle both sides with a little coarse salt and pepper and rub in. Let stand for 10 minutes, rinse off and pat dry.

Heat half the oil in a skillet and sauté half the eggplant slices on both sides until golden brown. Remove and place between two sheets of paper towel to absorb excess oil. Repeat with the rest of the oil and eggplant.

In a food processor, grind the walnuts to a powder. Add the remaining ingredients, blending until the paste forms a ball. Lay the eggplant slices on a work surface and place two or more tablespoons of filling (depending on type of eggplant) at the base. Carefully roll from the bottom into a compact roll. Serve on a serving platter decorated with fresh greens if desired.

Makes about 20-30 pieces.

Variations:

Cabbage Walnut Salad: Cook 1/2 medium cabbage in boiling water until very tender, and squeeze out excess moisture by hand. Chop coarsely by hand together with a few tablespoons of the walnut mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted Eggplant Walnut Salad: Roast one to two small eggplants. Chop by hand, blending in a few tablespoons of the walnut mixture. Use the filling to stuff fresh mushrooms, celery ribs and cherry tomatoes.

Iraqi Chicken-Stuffed Patties

Moshe Basson, a famous chef in Israel shared this Iraqi Passover treat. Biting into crispy mashed potatoes filled with sweet raisins, toasted pine nuts and chicken flavored in aromatic spices made all the stuffing preparation worth it.

1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes (about four to five medium), cooked, peeled, mashed and chilled

1/4 cup matzah meal plus extra meal for dipping 3 eggs, beaten

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive or vegetable oil, for frying

Stuffing

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup finely chopped red onion

2 butterflied chicken breasts, deboned, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

1/3 teaspoon each black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom

Combine the mashed potatoes, matzah meal and eggs in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

For the stuffing: Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet and cook the onion until golden. Add the chicken, raisins and pine nuts, if using, and stir in the spices. When the chicken turns opaque, remove from the heat. Let cool slightly, then cover and chill.

Oil hands and make a ball of potato mixture the size of a large egg. Flatten it out between your palms and make an indentation for the filling. Put a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center, and fold the edges over it. Close and flatten out to make sure that there are no holes with stuffing peeking through.

Dip both sides in matzah meal and deep-fry as the Iraqis do, or fry in a generous amount of hot oil until golden. Turn carefully, and fry the other side. Place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve hot.

Makes about 25.

Moshe b’Tayva (Moses in the Basket) — Dates Stuffed with Homemade Marzipan

Crunchy pistachios garnish these marzipan-made Moses bundled in a date basket. Encourage your kids to get creative, suggests the Glazers and make his/her own Moshe with personality.

14 to 16 large Medjool dates

Marzipan

Slightly Rounded 1/2 cup slivered or whole blanched almonds, ground

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon "kosher for Passover" vanilla extract

A few drops rose water or almond extract 1 to 2 teaspoons hot water. Garnish 1/4 cup crushed, toasted, unsalted pistachio nuts, whole cloves as needed, coriander seeds or mustard seeds (for the eyes).

Makes 14-16.

It’s Passover Time Down Under, Mate


Because Australia is situated below the equator, its seasons
rebel against the Jewish calendar. Our winter is their summer; our spring their
fall. Although Passover’s rituals and symbols resonate spring, the holiday is
celebrated in autumn Down Under.

“Passover begins just as the temperature drops, days grow
shorter, and grapevines lose their leaves,” said Jenni Neumann, a New Yorker
who grew up in Sydney. “It’s rather odd, if you’re not used to it, I guess.”

Yet, most of Neumann’s childhood memories of Passover would
be familiar to many American Jews: the apple and walnut charoset, matzah balls
floating in golden broth and jars of Manishewitz gefilte fish. Like many of her
American counterparts, Neumann, 38, grew up in an Ashkenazi world. While
Australian Jews call themselves Aussies, throw chicken on the barbie — or
barbecue — and speak English with the accent of Crocodile Dundee, their
Passover cuisine is straight from Molly Goldberg.

How did that happen, since Australia not only began as an
English colony, but still owes its allegiance and cultural heritage to Great
Britain?

While British Jews were present at the colony’s inception,
the demographics of Australia’s Jewish population has somersaulted several
times, as immigrants from various continents landed on its shores. After the
American Revolution, England needed another penal colony and selected Australia
as a dumping ground for undesirables.

In 1788, eight of the 751 convicts expelled on the first
fleet from London were Jews. If that’s not surprising enough, some of these
Jews were women. In subsequent decades, Jews continued to be sprinkled in
convict shipments, and others, down on their luck, left London voluntarily,
hoping for a better life in this hardscrabble country.

Defying the odds, many Jewish prisoners attained freedom
within several years. By 1817, Jews in Sydney had established a minyan and
burial society.

“When thinking of Jewish life back home, I picture Sydney’s
Great Synagogue,” said Neumann, describing this architectural jewel with its
four-story pointed towers and spectacular stained glass.

Built in 1879, the Great Synagogue is a quintessential
example of Victorian architecture, one of the most magnificent synagogues in
the world. During Australia’s first 150 years, English descendants dominated
the Jewish community and were fiercely loyal to the “mother country.” But the
19th century saw the arrival of German, Russian and Polish Jews.

A small Sephardi community bloomed and withered. As diverse
as these influences were, they were not strong enough to compete with the
established Jews who quickly Anglicized and absorbed newcomers. But this
situation changed radically during the 1930s when Jews from Central and Eastern
Europe headed in large numbers to Australia to escape the anti-Semitism fueled
by Hitler.

Anglo Jews could not contain this flood of Yiddish-speaking
immigrants who descended en masse and eventually overran them. Once World War
II ended, another band of European Jews took root, people freed from displaced
persons camps. Today, approximately half the Jews in Australia arrived in the
Holocaust’s wake, or are their descendants. For example, Neumann’s family
originated in Moravia (the southern part of the Czech Republic) and moved at
some stage to Vienna, where they became jewelers. Her grandparents and
great-grandparents fled the Nazis in 1938. Finding asylum in Australia, they
brought their Passover recipes and traditions with them.

“The thing I remember most about childhood seders are the
red eggs my mother used to make,” said Neumann, explaining that this was one of
the recipes her grandparents carried from Vienna. She describes how white
eggshells absorb brilliant pigment from steeping for hours with skins from
brown, or better yet, red Spanish onions.

Their red-brown color symbolizes the roasted egg on seder
plates. The pigment penetrates so deeply that egg whites turn a pale peachy
shade. Neumann’s mother, Barbara, starts stockpiling onion skins two months
before Passover.

“I save skins every time I use an onion in cooking and also
collect them from the green grocer’s onion display,” she said, explaining that
she prepares about five dozen eggs, enough to send home with Seder guests and
to last through the holiday’s eight days.

While charoset is a delightful treat, Neumann feels her
family recipe is the best. A generous amount of cinnamon and a splash of sherry
hint at palatschinken, the famed Viennese dessert crepe often filled with
walnuts.

Neumann has fond memories of spending Passovers with her
Uncle John and Aunt Shirley, whose father grew horseradish in his garden.
Contrary to bottled horseradish in America, where the infusion of red beet
juice indicates milder flavor than its white counterpart, in Australia mixing
beet juice with this bitter herb connotes that only the hottest horseradish was
used.

“As far as I’m concerned, the hotter the better,” said
Neumann, chuckling as she remembers challenging her Uncle John to see who could
take the strongest horseradish.

Shirley introduced a trendy honey mustard chicken and a
layered matzah cake, with decadent amounts of cocoa, whipped cream and dark
chocolate. She learned to make this outrageous dessert from an Israeli friend
in the catering business, and it immediately became everyone’s favorite.

“Shirley had to make two of these cakes to keep us happy,”
Neumann said.

With an eclectic array of recipes, Shirley credits Sephardi
friends with expanding her culinary horizons. Australia’s long-dormant Sephardi
community was revitalized in 1956, following the Suez Crisis. After some
political maneuvering, Egyptian Jews were allowed to enter its borders. By 1969
when Iraqi Jews were targeted for persecution, Australia opened its doors to
them.

Twenty years later, a stream of South African Jews arrived,
reinforced by refugees seeking opportunities after the former Soviet Union
disbanded. There’s a contingent of Israelis, too. Today more than 100,000 Jews
call Australia home; 80 percent of them live in Melbourne and Sydney. With more
than half of Jewish students attending Jewish schools, Australia boasts the
highest enrollment rate of any country except Israel. The Orthodox movement is
strong Down Under, but Reform — or what Aussies call Progressive — Jews make up
about 25 percent of the population.

Neumann waxes poetic about a leather bound haggadah she
received as a bat mitzvah gift. A copper plaque depicting ruins of the Second
Temple graces its front. “It’s beautiful and for years I proudly brought it to
Seders,” she said, explaining that the copper comes from mines in Israel dating
back to King Solomon. She inherited her appreciation of the past from her
parents who are antique dealers.

While shopping for their business, the Neumanns collect
Passover artifacts for their seder table, remnants of Australia’s rich Judaic
history, a legacy they have passed to their children.

Sherry Charoset

1 pound red apples (2-3) with skin on and seeds and core
removed

5 ounces walnuts, chopped

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1¼4 cup sweet sherry

1¼3 cup matzah meal

Liquid artificial sweetener to taste

1. Cut apples into chunks run through a food processor using
the coarse grating disk.

2. Place in a mixing bowl. Add walnuts and cinnamon. Combine
ingredients by hand.

3. Mix in sherry. Add meal to stiffen mixture. Add
sweetener, if needed. Charoset should be soft yet easy to serve

with a spoon. If necessary, adjust sherry and meal for
consistency and flavor. If making in larger quantities, retain the

apple-walnut-cinnamon ratio.

Yield: 8 servings

Red Eggs

Large pot that you don’t mind staining

Supermarket sized bag full of onion skins

2 dozen medium sized raw eggs

1¼2 pound fatty brisket

1. Place a thick layer of onion skins at bottom of pot,
followed by a layer of eggs. Continue layering, finishing with a layer of onion
skins.

2. Top with brisket.

3. Add enough cold water to cover the contents of pot (about
2 inches from the top).

4. Cover pot and place over medium heat to bring to a boil
slowly, which helps eggs from cracking. Keep eggs boiling steadily for 5-6
hours, adjusting heat between medium and low.

5. Check on eggs every 20 minutes, adding more water if
necessary. Gently move eggs around, using a wooden or plastic spoon. Make sure
eggs are covered all the time.

6. Turn off flame and cool down to warm. Wearing plastic
gloves to protect hands from staining, carefully remove eggs to a strainer to
dry. Store in original egg containers in refrigerator. They will keep right
through the holiday. To serve, break shells and sprinkle with a little salt or
salt water.

Chicken in Honey-Mustard Marinade

2 tablespoon margarine

1¼2 cup honey

1¼4 cup artificial kosher-for-Passover Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon salt

8 chicken drumsticks

No-stick spray

1. In a saucepan, stir first five ingredients over a low
flame until thoroughly blended, about 5 minutes. Cool.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a shallow, oven-proof baking
pan with spray. Arrange drumsticks in a single layer. Pour marinade over drumsticks.

3. Place pan in center of oven, turning drumsticks every 10
minutes. Lower temperature if sauce thickens quickly as it may burn. Roast 40
minutes, or until drumsticks brown and juices run clear when pierced with a
fork.

Cocoa Cream Layer Cake

1¼2 pt. of nondairy whip topping (or heavy cream, for dairy
version)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1¼2 teaspoon baking cocoa

3 matzahs

6 teaspoons sweet sherry (or a bit more, if needed)

1. In a large bowl, whip nondairy whip topping, sugar and
cocoa until stiff peaks form. (If using cream, do not overbeat or you’ll get
chocolate butter.)

2. Spread matzahs on 3 plates. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons sherry
over each matzah. Make sure entire surface is moistened, but don’t wet
completely or they’ll become mushy.

3. On a serving plate, place one matzah and completely cover
with half of whipped cream mixture. Don’t leave any area bare or it will dry
out. Place a second matzah on top and repeat.

4. Place third matzah on top and cover with chocolate
topping (recipe below).

Chocolate Topping

3 one-ounce squares of semisweet chocolate

2 pareve margarine (or sweet butter, for dairy version)

1 tablespoon milk nondairy creamer (or milk, for dairy
version)

In a double boiler, melt and blend topping ingredients.
Spread on top of third matzah. Place toothpicks into softened spots near the
top matzah’s four corners. Cover completely with aluminum foil. Refrigerate for
two days before serving.

Yield: 9 servings  

Seasons


The warm-up room at the “Y” where I exercise is right next door to the children’s playroom. While I perform a sun salutation, I hear a little girl calling out in a tiny excited voice.

“Can I have one? I want one!”

For a second, I recognize her voice, and so, though I haven’t a clue what “one” is, I can picture what’s going on. She’s referring to a red or blue fat plastic donut. Or a thick salted pretzel. Or a four-inch cardboard box of juice with a tiny clear straw. The little girl, who sounds no older than 18 months, (but am I certain that 18 months yammers while 24 months speaks clearly? Have I lost my instinctive baby calendar by which parents tell time?) wants one. Certainly this Sarah or Rachel or Sadie is somewhere dangerously near the Terrible Twos, having reached the stage of knowing that desire is all. Without our wants, we don’t grow. Who wouldn’t want “one?”

I left my own little girl in that room, not so long ago. As I do my stretches, flowing up and down in a satisfying rhythm, all time has merged. The past and the future pour into the now. I have moved from “The Wheels on the Bus” to “Bach Motets” in 60 seconds.

I’m so happy now I didn’t miss out. We did the “Mommy and Me,” and the “Kindergym” and the library story hour. I have nothing to regret, but plenty to miss.

It’s the feeling of missing that is so strange. It comes on warm as bath water, not with saccharine sentimentality, but more like a sweet amnesia. I mislaid my daughter some place, the daughter of her youth. Sometimes I feel certain that I made a mistake. I am sure that it’s my daughter I’m hearing through the wall, demanding her juice. She’s wearing a blue-check dress and carrying her doll with the blonde yarn hair, not her jeans and college-bound backpack. I left her there, minutes rather than years ago.

The “Y” dressing room adjoins the pool. As I shower and dress, I hungrily observe the beautiful young mothers and their babies, stretching themselves into bathing suits, ready for a swim. I stare so hard, at the baby thighs with extra flesh, and the hands that artlessly grab and pull. Perhaps, the moms think that I’m a woman in sorrow, pining for missed chances. Not at all. I’m visiting what I had. Their ultra-modern strollers are huge, like SUVs, front-loaded with a whole gym full of toys and rings, and take up the entire aisle between the lockers. I am jealous for one.

I took my own little girl here, to swim in this very pool. At 6 months old, Samantha was already doing laps in Baby Swim class. Together we smelled of chlorine and applesauce and love. I pulled a brush through her wet hair. We had a little tippy-cup, with a lid, when she was learning how to sip without spilling. Did I leave it here, I wonder? Did she somehow crawl away? Is she still in the pool, paddling without me?

Merle Feld’s poem, “jewish mother,” part of her lovely new book, “A Spiritual Life: A Jewish Feminist Journey,” (SUNY Press) begins like this:

“please don’t let me feed you/let it be me/that pleases/not the food.”

Feld has it right. A Jewish mother, no doubt like all mothers, lives in a crazy incongruity with her desires. I want to love to be acknowledged, seen, known. But I am destined to be defined largely by whether there is milk in the fridge.

But it’s funny how the leaves of our lives change color, how we in our families adapt to each other’s climate, over time. When my daughter was young, she bought her lunch at school with pre-paid tickets; better than my sandwiches, she said. Now, I send her off with paper bags filled with Tupperware, leftovers and apples, touchstones of home. As she leaves I whisper, “Let it be me that pleases, not the food.”

With this week, we begin a new season; the last semester of high school has begun.

“How’s it going?” I ask my friend Debra, the mother of another senior.

“It’s going too fast!”

So maybe that’s why I see my daughter everywhere these days. The Bygone Girl, is how I think of her. I see my daughter in the mall, as she looked at 12 or 10 or 15. And I’ll wonder, did I leave that girl behind? Did I drop her off only yesterday, at the library, at the middle-school, at the volleyball court? No, she’s just moved on, while part of me has stayed put.

The heart of the parent is a living museum, where ancient memories still grow and dwell.

Anticipating the next season of autonomy, I’m looking for a car. In a panic, I realize that I have no need for something big. Once the car had to be a four-door, with room for a child-seat in the back. And a huge trunk, to fit a bike with training wheels. Today, I can be like my friend Joe, whose daughter will graduate next year. He bought a Porsche, a two-seater.

But I can’t rush anything. I’m pushing fast enough. The seasons pile up on me like commuter traffic. I want to go slow.


Marlene Adler Marks, senior columnist of The Jewish Journal, is author of “A Woman’s Voice: Reflections on Love, Death, Faith, Food & Family Life.”

Her website is www.marleneadlermarks.com.

Her e-mail address is wmnsvoice@aol.com

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Her book, “A Woman’s Voice” is available through Amazon.com.

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