We really wish someone was making this for us tonight...or perhaps their Cabernet-Braised Lamb Shanks with Root Vegetables.- The Editors
When Chef Todd Gray, who grew up Episcopalian, married his wife, Ellen Kassoff, their union brought about his initiation into the world of Jewish cooking. More than a love story about what one can do with fresh ingredients, Todd and Ellen talk about the food they grew up with, their life together, and how rewarding the sharing of two people’s traditions—and meals—can be.
In 1999, Chef Todd Gray combined his love for farm-to-table ingredients with his passion for Jewish cuisine opening the acclaimed Equinox Restaurant in Washington, D.C. The restaurant is a gathering place for Washington lawyers, deal makers, and it even welcomes Presidents and their wives who want a quiet meal alone in the real world.
Gorgeous design, appetizing full-color photographs and sidebars from Washington’s elite including: BET co-founder and president of Salamander Hospitality Sheila C. Johnson, R.W Apple Jr’s wife Betsey Pinckney Apple, Chef Jose Andres, The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes is sure to please everyone from traditional Kosher cooks to high-holiday hosts.
Passover is essentially a gluten free holiday. With the absence of wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and oats for 8 nights, creates limited choices. Protein and veggies are easy. It’s the carbs, the desserts, actually the stuff that most of us crave, thus find satisfying become absent. What I have found in creating a gluten free household is that mealtime as well as snack time is every bit as tasty, if not tastier than how we previously ate.
For my kids, Passover elicits emotions of dread and doom. However, this past week, as I tested and retested recipes, the kids were quite emotional about what was coming out of our kitchen. Even a failed attempt at a gluten free passover doughnut this morning, were gobbled up. Eli coined it a “makee” – a cross between a muffin and a cake and one of the best gluten free treats to date!
So, in testing recipes for the first night of Seder, I started with this Amaranth, Quinoa and Dark Chocolate Cake from La Tartine Gourmande. The first go around, I made it exactly according to the recipe. Delicious! Perfect! And it disappeared within minutes. But with 14 adults and 9 kids, sitting down to dinner, this wasn’t going to go very far.
As a half-and-halfer who leaned too much to the gentile side, I might have secretly liked one Jewish holiday -- Passover. To be honest, it’s the only one I knew. Barely. “We’re going to Seder dinner at Celie’s,” my dad would announce each year. Celie was my dad’s younger sister who treated him like the baby of the family. My dad, known as Duke, and stricken with polio as a child, walked his whole life with a brace & cane. It was Celie, till she died, who hand made for him the flesh-colored, stretchy compression socks that improved his circulation. Chappy, my aunt Celie’s husband -- okay, my uncle -- would conduct a pretty serious, religious event. He was sanctimonious, no-nonsense, and an easy foil for my fun-loving dad. I always came starved, but ate very little.
This was a rowdy, boisterous group -- a ton of aunts, uncles and cousins that all knew each other well and lived in the VALLEY. They seemed to include my brother in their group. Me, not so much. So, I clung to my dad for comfort, laughing at and enjoying everything he said, hanging on like it was his last day on earth. That’s how it was with us all my life. He was an older dad. Magical. My hero. And out there in the Valley I was often petrified. I secretly longed for that other soon-to-be-celebrated holiday, Easter -- with the gentiles.
For some reason, I identified much more with my mother’s side. If my father’s chaotic mishpucha was like Alvy Singer’s in “Annie Hall “(with dad as Uncle Joey Nickels) for my mother’s family, think Grammy Hall. Only stranger and more white trash. Yep, I was more comfortable in a room full of pathologically quiet people who just kind of stared blankly into space. Occasionally, someone like my uncle R.T. might whisper a word or even an incoherent monologue. Something inaudible.
Personally, I want my children to have an understanding of what the holiday means and have some sort of discipline. With that said, they are missing the baked treats that normally adorn our home. I haven’t made this particular recipe in a few years and felt that this was the perfect solution to their sweet craving. Sometimes I toast some pecans or almonds and sprinkle them on the top, but this time I opted to chop up some of the homemde candied orange peels I had in the freezer. The scent and the taste of the orange made all the difference in the world.
Pulling together any dinner can be a challenge but Passover adds special obstacles. Besides preparing the dinner, there are the accoutrements for the service (the lamb shank, parsley, hard boiled egg, fresh horseradish etc) and making sure there are copies of the Passover service--the Haggadah--in the house. Since flour and cream can’t be used on Passover, favorite desserts can’t be called on. Dessert still needs to feels like a treat. At a time like this the simplest dessert--baked plums--satisfies completely.
I've posted this recipe before but it's worth repeating. Not in season from local providers, plums can be found in most markets. They can be served by themselves (they’re really that delicious), with freshly made whipped cream, or ice cream. An added benefit: they look good on the plate.
Most everyone loves chocolate cake. It's just one of those classic desserts that no one can refuse. A good chocolate cake is moist and tender, sweet but not saccharine, and very chocolaty, of course. Melted chocolate—not cocoa powder—separates an excellent chocolate cake from a mediocre one. The best quality chocolate will always yield excellent results. But what about a chocolate cake made without flour? You would think it would be horrible. But it actually works, with just two ingredients: chocolate and eggs.
The best way to describe it would be to call it a baked mousse, because basically that's what it is. Melted chocolate is first combined with a mixture of beaten egg yolks and sugar, then egg whites are folded in. I choose to flavor this cake with instant espresso powder and vanilla, both of which help heighten the chocolate flavor. The final product is a dense yet moist and tender cake just right for chocolate lovers. It also makes a great dessert for Passover since there's no flour at all.
It probably never would have happened had it not been for the fact
that we were trapped in Studio 8H for camera blocking for hours on end
which was business as usual. A group of us were sitting around the
Green Room, which was next to Lorne’s office on the 9th floor
overlooking the studio stage.
This was where we took our meals between the dress rehearsal and
the live show. It was also where we got notes and the chopping block
for sketches. But you’d never know that kind of carnage took place at
any other time in this unassuming spot. It was furnished with the kind
of couches and chairs that said ‘we don’t give a crap about this late
night summer replacement show, let’s give them the stuff we have in
storage’. The color palate was ‘tan 70s vomit’.
In the room were Gilda Radner, Paul Schaffer, Cathy Vasapoli (Paul’s girlfriend, now, his wife) Marilyn Miller, Alan Zweibel, Al Franken, and me. We were all in varying stages of exhaustion (the writers, obviously, even more so) and were draped over the furniture like the kids in the “Going Steady” number from Bye Bye Birdie.
“Hey, isn’t it pasacccchhhhhhhhhh?” Zweibel asked, shredding his throat and getting the laugh his sacrifice deserved.
Years ago I was a personal Chef in a private home in a very swank suburb of Boston. My sister got me the interview for the job, I liked the family immediately and they liked me. My job consisted of getting to work at 10 in the morning, quite civilized, I was the last of the “staff” to arrive at the house. I would head to the kitchen to pick up my list from the madame of the house and read the pages of notes and the menu for the dinner that evening.
There was always a shopping list and at the end of the pages she would underline that they were on a very low fat diet with an exclamation mark! A big part of my job was to bake cookies every day to be ready when the two kids came home from school and they had to be “fresh out of the oven”, my choice of what kind, but they had to be piping hot.
I was given an adorable MG convertible to tool around in with my many bags of grocery and a charge account at the local high-end grocery store. I would make dinner for 6 o'clock sharp, clean up and head home for dinner at a later hour. The first day on the job my sister called to ask how was it going so far and what was the house like?
If you ask my Jewish husband, he’ll tell you that, until I married him, I “didn’t know from Jewish food.” And he’s right. As a girl who was raised a Southern Baptist in Texas, my experience with Jewish cuisine was limited to toasting a bagel.
But when we had children and decided to raise them respecting the traditions of both of our religions, I really got into it. Hannukah and Christmas, Passover and Easter, we celebrated all of the holidays that honored God and Food.
Until the year he told me he craved chopped chicken liver and I was at a loss.
Thankfully, my mother-in-law gave me an amazing cookbook, The Gefilte Variations, and I realized chopped chicken liver was just a version of French pate, something that even this shiksa could understand.
Passover is around the corner. In the past, thinking about cleaning out my cupboards, omitting all the Chametz(anything made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt, or oats or any product that is made with these grains and left to stand raw for longer than eighteen minutes) was a daunting task. No cereal, bread, waffles, pancakes, and most cookies for 8 days. Matzoh is the “grain” of choice and there are only so many ways one can eat matzoh (before it totally clogs up your system – and we all know how that goes).
Over the past few years I have become much more rigid in observing Passover. Mostly because I wanted my children to respect the holiday, understand what it means to sacrifice, and hopefully teach discipline through our values and our heritage.
Regardless, it can be a constant struggle. Yet, by the 3rd day, they all settled into the challenge at hand (not dissimilar to a cleanse) thus, their consciousness rises to the occasion. This year it is going to be much easier. Most of what we give up for Passover has already been omitted and almost forgotten as we lean more toward a gluten free lifestyle. But still, gluten free means we can eat rice, legumes, and most grains. Not the case during Passover.