Passover

strawberryPassoverDessert135xI know this looks like ice cream.  But IT’S NOT.  It’s Strawberry Mousse.  And it has all the creamy mouthfeel that ice cream exudes.  Best of all it’s quick and easy to put together.  What could be better than that?

Oy Vey, I am not Jewish, however, the Wild Boar is.  So when there is a Jewish Holiday (however it seems as though lots of non-Jews, goyim, are celebrating Passover these days), I like to take on my “perfect goy wife” role and put something together, a traditional treat during the holiday period.  I know, I know, I’m good.

The Wild Boar does not follow Jewish dietary laws (he eats everything) but like I said, it’s fun to make traditional things.  If there is a holiday, I’ll join in and do what I need to do for a celebration.  I love parties.

This mousse is considered perfect for Passover because it is non-dairy with no leavening, an important consideration for Jews following traditional dietary laws with a meal where meat is usually present.

But the truth is, I make this on a whim because it is so darn yummy and simple to throw together.  It’s light, fluffy and refreshing.  You’ll be saying Mazel Tov before you know it.  I know you will.

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bakedplumsatvickisPulling 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.

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darya_painting_lg.jpgIt is 1979, my first night of Seder in America since I fled Iran eight months before.  My husband remains back in Iran, hoping to salvage a small part of our valuable properties, our home and business, a chewing gum factory that remains the largest in the Middle East.  “Come with us,” I insisted, “It’s too dangerous, especially for Jews.” 

He would not hear of it.  I was "being an alarmist", as always, he will join us "in a few weeks", a couple of months at most. 

Now, in hindsight, I realize that we were blinded by a certain naiveté and senseless hope that is common with having lived in comfort—this could not be the end of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who had, with enormous pomp, crowned himself King of Kings in 1967. 

We were wrong of course.  Once we landed in LAX, I learned that the Air France Plane that carried me and my daughters, age two and ten, to safety was the last allowed out of Iran before Mehrabad Airport was shut down by the Islamic Revolutionaries.  It would take another three years before my husband would be allowed to leave the country.

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MazzagnaItalian Jewish culinary culture is fascinating.  Not Ashkenazi, not sephardi it’s its own mashup of flavors and dishes.  So it isn’t surprising that Italian Jews actually figured out a way to enjoy pasta during Passover.  Like pretty much everything Italians do, their matzo is prettier than ours, often round and punched out to look like a lacy doily.  However our square shaped giant crackers are perfect for constructing a “lasagna” or as my staff started calling it “mazzagna” (matzo+lasagne).  I’ve heard these “pies” layered with matzo called Tortino, Mina or Scacchi. You might think that this idea is a poor substitute for the real thing, but actually it’s pretty great.  The matzos which are soaked prior to layering, absorb the tomato sauce and become light and fluffy.

You can use this idea to make any kind of “tortino” whether you construct it with a meat sauce (made with groung lamb perhaps) or vegetables as I do here.  At Angeli we decided that the best use of the Mazzagna/Tortino was as a vegetarian option/side dish for all.  If you’re keeping kosher or doing a traditional meat meal than leave out the parmesan.  If not, then go for it.  Either way your guests will be happy to have something on the table that’s light(ish).

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alanmedadAs 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.  

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