A dinner companion the other evening recalled his childhood in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where dishes for the Passover seder were prepared by the housekeeper. Like a scene out of The Help, she’d then turn around and make the family’s recipes, like kugel, for her own church suppers, calling it Easter dressing.
It was the perfect anecdote for a weekend with a mashup of the Jewish and Christian calendars that people in the New York region had taken to calling “Eastover.” Around these parts, gatherings for either Passover or Easter invariably include friends and relatives of varying religious backgrounds. So the table this Sunday included recipes that recognized both holidays:
- Lois’ Mother’s Matzo Ball Soup — These knaidlach (matzo balls) are of the fluffy variety, with whipped egg whites folded in to lighten the batter. With a nod to contemporary tastes and food resources, the usual parsley was replaced with a mix of fresh dill and cilantro and a bit of ground ginger for zing.
- Coffee-Cola Baked Ham — In the Southern tradition, poured a cola over the ham (using Boylan’s Cane Cola in place of the typical Pepsi, or Coca-Cola, depending upon your regional cola allegiance) along with the last of the morning’s coffee that is the origin of red-eye gravy.
- Potato-Mushroom Kugel — Fresh green garlic, looking much like scallions, and a touch of marjoram bumped up the seasoning in this Jewish staple.
- Salad of Green Beans — The beautiful celadon-green color of Spanish Verdina beans screamed out for a place on the Eastover table. The lovely, creamy beans were cooked on their own, then tossed with some of the minced greens of the fresh garlic, chopped celery, dill and an olive-oil/lemon juice dressing. Served at room temperature.
- Roasted Cabbage — A Martha Stewart recipe brought to our attention, with the reaction: Why have we not thought of this before? Simple green cabbage, cut into thick slices, drizzled with olive oil and set in the oven to roast while the ham and kugel baked. Like other roasted vegetables, cabbage turns into a real sweety.
- Blackerry-Ginger Sorbet— Frozen blackberry pulp served as a base. Simply mix the defrosted puree with sugar to taste, add a touch of lemon juice if desired, and some minced fresh ginger (in this case we substituted a couple drops of the magnificent Fresh Ginger Chef’s Essence from Atelier Perfumes) Churn according to your ice-cream maker’s directions. A dollop of creme fraiche on top proved the perfect, refreshing touch for after chocolate Easter bunny consumption, while also meeting the needs of those avoiding leavened desserts for Passover.