I was determined to try a different recipe for WG’s birthday cake this year. His birthday fell during Passover and he keeps the holiday rather strictly. I didn’t want him to miss a birthday cake, though. We asked him what kind of cake he wanted, but he left it up to us. Grandma and WG are chocoholics, but we had a bunch of passover brownies during the holiday (not to mention matzo toffee crunch). So, I decided to try to make a good almond cake, cloaked in chocolate ganache. I went hunting on the internet for a recipe, but none suited my fancy. By combining a few, I came up with something that worked for us. I think it is a winner. In fact, I would make it all year round!
For the first time in a long time, I’m actually putting a menu for the week together. At the beginning of the week! Wednesday may change because J has decided that she doesn’t want to eat anything leavened this week. She says rice is o.k., but pasta is not. L, newly a bat mitzvah, is not so passionate about keeping Passover – not even in her own way.
We actually had our Seder one night early. To us, it is more important to observe this holiday with the same family friends every year by coming together and stuffing ourselves silly during the Passover Seder. If there is a God, we are hoping it is the thought that counts, not the observance on actual dates (or complete observance of 8 days without leavened bread as determined by the rabbis of old). If God does care, oh, well, I’m totally screwed. Like J, I’ve always had my way of figuring out what is meaningful to me. I just make sure to eat a bite of matzo every day, and that way, remind myself of what is being celebrated.
Here goes for this week:
Monday: Pan roasted chicken, artichokes, cauliflower, matzo, Passover brownies
Tuesday: Turkey chili, rice, fruit
Wednesday: Lasagna, salad
Thursday: WG’s birthday dinner fish fillets provencal, spinach, roasted sweet potatoes, almond cake with chocolate ganache, fruit
Luckily, I was in pretty good shape by the end of December so that S & I could host our annual New Year’s Eve dinner. While this year’s menu was not as elaborate as last year’s feast based on luck (hmmm, can’t decide if that one worked or didn’t), longevity and prosperity, we did have plenty to eat and I finally agreed to a pot-luck dinner, which was a good move. We were a smaller crowd than usual, but my friends JGK and LH came through with some delicious dishes.
We tried to have a somewhat Italian/Mediterranean theme, but coudn’t stray from our annual shrimp cocktail and pigs-in-blankets. The year just wouldn’t feel the same. And, I was going to make a chicken dish with fresh lemon and parsley that I learned to make at a class in Ravello, Italy, but then I remembered from my research for last year’s dinner that eating foul was bad luck because your luck could “fly away”. Instead, I went with a fish dish (large silver scales mean $$$) and risotto (also for abundance).
New Year’s Eve Menu
Pigs in blankets (LH)
Blood orange, orange beet and shaved fennel salad with arugula, and Parmesan, citrus dressing
Wild halibut Mediterranean style
Risi e bisi (risotto with peas and parmesan)
Dessert – JGK’s choice…Molten Chocolate Cake with whipped cream and mixed berries!! She used Paula Deen’s recipe.
New Year’s Eve Toast with Limoncello and Dark Chocolate with Dried Fruits and Nuts (mendiants)
For the fish, I used this recipe and changed it up a little bit by using nicoise olives (about 1/4 cup chopped), a big pinch of dried oregano, and the full 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes with their juice. This recipe is one of my staples. It is so easy and so good. You can make the sauce ahead of time and reheat it when you prepare the fish. There was not a bit left on anyone’s plate on New Year’s Eve. Well, that is, except for JGK. She was talking and didn’t get to finish hers at the table. But, she finished it in the kitchen while she was preparing the dessert!
The new recipes that I tried for our celebration last night with JS and JO were a hit.
First off, we had wonderful starters prepared by JS. Perfectly ripe honeydew melon draped in shaved proscuitto and creamy, rich deviled eggs sprinkled with paprika were devoured by our intimate group.
I was too busy lounging around, kid-free, during the day to mentally time the meal and I forgot that I wanted to bake a fresh loaf of bread (from dough that I had made a few days ago – from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day). While it takes no time flat to make the bread dough, it still takes a while to let it rest out of the fridge and then to bake. And, I forgot about the beets. So, after we talked and talked, while I was getting the fruit tart ready, I looked at the clock and said, “Whoa, look at the time. Is it o.k. if we wait a little while for dinner?” “Sure,” S and our guests replied. I got out the bread dough, put it on a pizza peel to rise for 40 minutes and got started on the beets and beet greens.
My favorite holiday is Passover. I love the tradition of it and the lack of commercialism surrounding it. My favorite part of the holiday is the seder dinner – making the meal, setting the table, putting together the seder plate, reading the Haggadah (we finally bought new ones and graduated from the Maxwell House version), and, of course, eating.
This year, we went to our friends DM & EM’s for the first night seder. It was wonderful. We have a tradition of spending this holiday together – and because Passover frequently falls during spring break when we are away, we have a seder to mark the holiday whenever we can. This year, both families were home for the big night, on the big night. DM & EM prepared a great dinner. We all relaxed, drank fabulous wine and gorged ourselves on the succulent matzo ball soup, moist and flavorful brisket, whipped potatoes, and perfect vegetables.