Passover Preparations

We are going to my cousin’s in Jerusalem as we do every year and we always bring the charoset, chicken soup with matza balls and dessert. I always try to bring a different dessert.

I am still trying decide what to bring this year. Maybe one of these:

  • Torta di Carote from the Veneto region
  • Persian Rice Cookies
  • Super Moist Banana & Almond Cake
  • Chocolate Almond Torte with cinnamon, allspice, cloves and a dark chocolate glaze

Last year I made Gâteau à l’Orange et au Gingembre from one of my favourite blogs, Chocolate & Zucchini. It is a moist cake that has an intense orange and ginger flavour. I might be tempted to make it again this year. It was a huge hit. And, it is very easy to make.

Gâteau à l'Orange et au Gingembre

Serving Size: 8 - 10

Orange and Ginger Cake From Chocolate and Zucchini

For the cake:

3 small oranges or 2 large oranges (preferably organic)

6 eggs

250g (1-1/3 cups) sugar

250g (1-1/3 cups) almond flour or almond meal

Thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger

1/4 C candied ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the glaze:

Zest and juice of a lemon

60 g (1/3 cup) thick sugar crystals, the type used as a topping for chouquettes or brioches

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Grease a 24 cm (8-inch) springform cake pan.

Clean and scrub the oranges well. Put them in a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Put the saucepan over medium heat, and simmer for two hours, adding a little hot water when the level gets too low (note : you may, like me, find the smell of whole oranges boiling very unpleasant, but it has nothing to do with the smell or taste of the finished product). Drain, and let cool. Cut in quarters and puree in the food processor.

Peel and chop the fresh ginger. Cut the candied ginger in small dice. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the orange puree, the sugar, the almonds, the baking powder, the fresh ginger, until well blended. Fold in the bits of candied ginger.

Pour the batter in the cake pan, and bake for about an hour, until puffy and golden. Let cool for a few minutes on a rack, while you prepare the frosting. Run a knife around the cake to loosen it, and remove the sides of the pan.

Put the sugar crystals in a small bowl with the lemon juice and zest. Spoon this mixture evenly onto the top of the cake. Let cool completely before serving. It can be made a day ahead, wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator.

The second dessert I made were chocolate-covered Weesper Moppen, which are Dutch almond cookies. They are chewy cookies with a wonderful almond flavour which can be made plain and rolled in coarse sugar or covered in dark chocolate. I like them because they are not very sweet.

Chocolate- Covered Weesper Moppen

Yield: About 20 cookies

250g (8oz + 2 tablespoons) coarse almond paste or grind 125g//1/2 cup of blanched almonds and 125g (1/2 cup) of fine sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

1 small egg

200g (8oz) 80% dark chocolate (Valrhona or some other premium brand), melted

Mix everything except the chocolate together until you have a soft paste.

Wet your hands with cold water, and roll the paste into log. It will still be very sticky and a bit hard to manage. You could roll them in a little kosher for Pesach icing sugar or put the dough in plastic wrap and roll it into a log and place into the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up a little.

With a sharp knife (wipe it between cuts) cut the dough into 20 rounds about 1/2 inch or 1cm thick. Place them cut side down on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silpat liner.

Let them dry out for about 2 hours. I put them in a cold oven, with the fan on, for one hour, which worked excellently!

Then, preheat the oven to 200 C / 375 F. When the oven is hot, bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. Check that they don't brown too much. Remove them from the sheet, let them cool.

After they have cooled, dip them in the melted chocolate. You can either cover the entire cookie or just one side.

They will dry out a bit more as they cool, but they should still be slightly chewy. They are best served the same day or the following day.

Oyster Suppers

The Jewish community in my hometown in Alabama was founded in 1888. Most of the money raised to build the synagogue was through the efforts of the Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society. Sherry Blanton, the synagogue’s historian writes, “With boundless enthusiam they quickly planned a New Year’s hop as their first fund raiser. A series of successful bazaars enlarged their treasury, further augmented by the profits of Purim parties, strawberry festivals, and oyster dinners as well as “tariffs on the Jewish gentlemen”

Yes folks, my lovely synagogue was built with money with proceeds from oyster dinners!!! I was appalled. But, then again they built a synagogue none-the-less and it is the 11th oldest community still worshiping in the same building. The community is dwindling, but it will always be my home away from home. Recently, it became even more special when I celebrated my wedding there on 30 December 2006.

But, that is not the reason I am telling you about oysters. My cousin sent me a very funny family story that involves his mother, my Aunt Sophie z”l:

One day, Aunt Julia was visiting in Birmingham. Mom had a Seder Plate hanging on the dining room wall. To quote Aunt Julia: “Sophie – what a lovely oyster plate you have!”

I had never heard this story. Thank you Mark, you made my day!

Dare I Say It?

Pesach or Passover is in a little over three weeks! April 2nd is the evening of Pesach and it is time to prepare the house and think about what I am going to bring to my cousin’s house in Jerusalem.

I always bring my grandmother’s world famous matza balls, David’s world famous haroset (secret recipe that he will not part with) and a couple of homemade desserts.

I will give you one special ingredient in David’s haroset, chestnut paste.

My grandmother’s matza balls are made with whole matza.

Nathan Matza Balls

I make them in advance and freeze them. I can’t enter my cousin’s house without bringing these matza balls and David threatens to stop Passover if I don’t make them.

Speaking of stopping Passover…. I have a great story about my great-uncle Alfred. A few days before Passover one year he went to the local supermarket in my hometown in Alabama to buy some matza. He looked in the usual place and he couldn’t find anything. So, he went to the manager’s desk and asked where the matza was. The manager said, “Sir, the matza will be here next week.” To which my uncle replied, “Ok, I will go home right now and pray to the Lord our G-d and ask him to postpone Passover for a few days!” True story.

As for the seder plate above, I just love it. I dreamt about this seder plate before I bought it. I always wanted one with glass vessels. On my second trip to Israel, I saw this seder plate at the gift shop at the Museum Complex in Jerusalem. The artist’s name is Shraga Landesman and he makes some beautiful pieces of Judaica.

Someone once told me that my seder plate looked like something from Star Trek. I told him that would be one interesting seder considering that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are MOT (members of the tribe).

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