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The Feast of Unleavened Bread : Tradition! Doing It by the Book

April 04, 1993|JUDY ZEIDLER | Zeidler is the author of "The Gourmet Jewish Cook" (William Morrow).

For the observance of Passover, also known as the Festival of Unleavened Bread, family and friends are invited weeks in advance to participate in the traditional Seder.

Before Passover begins, the kitchen is made ready, the shopping is done and the recipes are selected for the Seder menu. In my case, most of the recipes I cook are traditional dishes I have been preparing since the first Seder I cooked years ago.

The ceremonial foods remain the same: lamb shank, hard-cooked eggs, bitter herbs, parsley, horseradish and charoset , a mixture of fruit and nuts. In my family, the lamb shanks, representing the Paschal lamb, are the best part of the meal. I still bake them in an old electric portable oven that is used exclusively for Passover.

Last year I roasted extra shanks, boned them and combined the meat with steamed carrots, parsnips and potatoes to make a quick stew of lamb and vegetables. The stew is enhanced with the rich tomato-wine sauce that is left in the roaster. This is a terrific main course to serve for the second Seder.

Passover desserts always include sponge cakes, made with matzo cake meal and potato starch. I usually bake several kinds--banana-nut sponge cake, chocolate sponge cake or carrot-apple sponge cake. I frost them with chocolate glaze, or garnish them with chocolate-dipped strawberries.

ROASTED LAMB SHANKS

8 to 10 lamb shanks, trimmed of fat

1/4 cup olive oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced, optional

4 carrots, scrubbed or peeled, and thinly sliced

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1 bay leaf, crushed

3 sprigs fresh oregano

1/2 cup minced parsley

2 (12-ounce) cans Passover tomato-mushroom sauce

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 1/2 cups dry Passover red wine

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

8 to 10 mushrooms, cut in half

Have butcher make cut halfway across each shank. Tie each shank around meaty portion with kitchen string to hold shape.

Heat oil in large, heavy oven roaster and brown shanks on all sides. Transfer shanks to platter and keep warm. Add onions and garlic to pan and saute until tender. Add carrots, celery, bay leaf, oregano, parsley, tomato-mushroom sauce, tomatoes and wine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes.

Add browned lamb shanks. Spoon sauce over and arrange rosemary sprigs on top. Cover and bake at 375 degrees 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting every 20 minutes and turning lamb shanks. Uncover. Add mushrooms and bake until shanks are tender, about 30 minutes more. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

20--MINUTE LAMB AND VEGETABLE STEW

4 Roasted Lamb Shanks with leftover sauce

2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

6 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

2 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Remove meat from shank bones and place in large pan, along with leftover sauce.

Place vegetable steamer in another large pan and add water just to bottom of steamer. Steam potatoes, carrots and parsnips until tender, about 10 minutes. Add to meat mixture and toss gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

CARROT-APPLE SPONGE CAKE

9 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup applesauce

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3/4 cup matzo cake meal

2/3 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Chocolate Glaze

Beat egg yolks and 1 cup sugar in bowl of electric mixer until light in color and texture. Add carrots, applesauce, lemon juice and zest and blend well. Combine almonds, matzo cake meal, potato starch, salt and cinnamon and blend into egg yolk mixture.

Beat egg whites in another bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff enough to hold peaks. Fold 1/4 of whites into batter. Add remaining whites and fold in gently until well blended.

Pour batter into ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees until cake springs back to touch and wood pick inserted in center comes out dry, 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove cake from oven and immediately invert pan to cool. Loosen sides and center of cake with sharp knife and unmold onto cake plate. When cake is completely cool, spread with Chocolate Glaze. Makes 12 servings.

Chocolate Glaze

8 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 tablespoon safflower or vegetable oil

1/2 cup unsalted margarine, cut into small pieces

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler placed over simmering water. Add oil and margarine, stirring until melted. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

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