It never fails to amaze me how much energy is expended every April, by my frozen patch of planet, in a renewed quest to become lush with verdant life almost overnight and certainly before my very eyes. Trees pop to life. Sap warms and begins to course through veins, buds swell, a bright green haze signals the advent of a new season and an electrical surge seems to pass through the earth to ignite we humans, causing us to smile, be a little giddy and drunk with sunshine, clean out closets and share large meals with loved ones.
Spring brings us Easter and Passover. Both traditions have deeply-rooted food experiences. Our families’ Christian traditions included glazed ham with pineapple rings, maraschino cherries, studded with cloves, potato scallop, or turkey and all the trimmings. And Family. And Chocolate. And Peeps. And those horrible, pure sugar pink and purple eggs, that peg the sugar index just below maple sugar candy, which we ate anyways. My teeth hurt just remembering.
Not sure what the other side ate. It did not include the “bunny,” and that was enough for me to ignore it. Now as an adult, I don’t celebrate the religious end of things, but instead, I love to appreciate the beginning of things, the rebirth of my garden, city and world, with friends, family and food. This year, since we can go to the store and buy as many chocolate bunnies, eggs, and coloured cellophane grass as we please, Rob and I thought it might be interesting to experience some of the goodies that Passover has to offer. We are not attentive to any religious dietary restrictions, as we are interested purely in the food experience. Chocolate bunnies will be present as my kids are still my kids at any age.
12 pm Easter Sunday: Noodle kugel is warm from the oven, and the brisket is going in for a long braise. Tzimmes (which is almost like a chutney) is simmering on the stove top, smelling oddly enough of Christmas, I think because of the cinnamon, nuts, dried fruit, vanilla and orange.
We adapted the brisket recipe from many found on the web, but mostly, I followed The Pioneer Woman’s excellent blog posting. It’s a 6-pound brisket that I trimmed of excess fat and placed in a roasting pan. In a separate bowl, I mixed about 2 cups of ketchup, 1 cup of grape jelly (really!) and a packet of onion soup mix, and then pour over both sides of the brisket. I cooked the brisket at 275 degrees F for 6 hours, turning it over and spooning the sauce on top halfway through. When done, I removed the brisket to a cutting board and cut it into 1/4 inch-or-so slices and poured the sauce into a large enough serving dish to hold both the sauce and brisket slices. I then transferred the slices to the sauce.
The meal was warming and delicious. The brisket and sauce were accompanied by the tzimmes, steamed green beans and smashed potatoes. We had the Kugel for dessert although Jewish friends have since told us that the kugel, despite its custardy sweetness is a side. A real Passover meal would likely have a choice of a couple of flourless cakes for dessert. Of course, this certainly wasn’t meant to be authentic – we used butter where we shouldn’t have, for example – but it was wildly successful as a tasty exploration of another set of traditions.