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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sedertable.jpgMy husband is Jewish, my stepchildren are Jewish, even my son is Jewish.  And yet, I, myself, am merely Jew-ish, which is to say that I go to temple with my family, participate in our Jewish life, but have yet to officially convert.  Why?  I don’t know exactly.  I believe that it’s either in your heart or it isn’t, and it is in mine, and no amount of mikvehs will make it more so.

My first seder was easily a decade ago.  I slaved (no pun intended), I sweated, I researched.   I even figured out how to get a lamb shank bone for my seder plate.  And for dinner, I made a fine lamb roast.  We invited my husband’s best friend since high school, and his family.  Turns out, they don’t eat lamb.  That was awkward.   But it had nothing to do with Passover.  (I had no idea that there were people who felt funny about lamb. Now I ask, every single time, and there’s only been one other occasion where someone categorically turned their back on it.) 

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pate bowlIf 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.

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ricottagnudiSpinach ricotta gnudi, made with no wheat flour, are my latest recipe, just in time for Passover. Since the Israelites had to flee their oppressors quickly they didn't have time to allow bread to rise, so the story goes. To commemorate that time, during Passover Jews eat foods made with matzo meal or matzo cake meal, but not with regular flour. Most other non-wheat flours are also not allowed.

Gnudi are a little larger and plumper than gnocchi but somewhat similar. Some people think of them as "ravioli without the pasta."  This recipe is very easy because you use one of those "blocks" of frozen spinach. The secret is getting as much water as possible out of the spinach. You want the dough to be very stiff.

Rolling the dumplings in potato starch also helps keep them from falling apart in the water when you boil them. Since I used potato starch instead of flour, these gnudi are also gluten free. I adapted my recipe from the Weelicious recipe for Spinach Gnocchi.

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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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