By 12:15 today, I had made the cake, the soup and matzoh balls, the brisket, polished the silverware and set the table. The brisket took a bit longer last night than I expected, and I slept like hell and woke up at my usual time, but the recipe is very good so it’s worth it. All that remains to do is roast the chicken, cook the veggies and straighten up the apartment. This is going better than I thought it would.
Maria invited people for a Passover Seder and we worked out a menu for
the festival meal: * Hard boiled egg * Gefilte fish * Matzoh ball soup * [Brisket with dried apricots and aromatic spices](http://www.epicurious.com/run/recipe/view?id=106421&kw=brisket+apricots&action=filtersearch&filter=recipe-filter.hts&collection=Recipes&ResultTemplate=recipe-results.hts&queryType=and&keyword=brisket+apricots&x=0&y=0) * Roast Chicken with lemon and herbs * Braised asparagus * New potatoes * honey-soaked almond cake, recipe torn from April 1987 Bon Appetit
I intended to go in to work Friday, so I swapped the holiday for Thursday.
What she overlooked was that she doesn’t have a day off to swap. Oops.
So I’m taking care of everything.
Tonight I’m making the brisket and Maria prepared a Sephardic haroset (dates, nuts, an apple, honey and wine) and the eggs. Early tomorrow I’ll make the cake and soup. The gefilte fish is from a jar and the matzoh balls are from a mix so that’s a cinch. The chicken is my own recipe (rub chicken inside and out with olive oil, bruised fresh rosemary and thyme, ground black pepper and sprinkle with dry boullion, stuff with quartered lemons and roast. Works best if I don’t measure anything) and always turns out okay. The vegetables are simple, no sauces. The brisket gets sliced and reheated. I have to get things arranged and set the table.
Nothing difficult, still, it’s tricky getting the last minute coordination of a meal right, especially single-handed. Trying to pull this off alone makes you appreciate how hard our Grandmothers worked.
We took friends visiting from the Netherlands to a food joint you probably won’t find in the "Where to eat" lists: Hiram’s Hot Dogs.
We try to go when the weather warms and we can put the top down on the Volkswagen and eat our dogs with the sun beaming down but braved bitter cold to share this little place with our friends.
This dive eatery off Lemoine Avenue in Fort Lee, N.J. has been in the business of serving Thumann’s hotdogs since 1928. My father-in-law went as a kid to Hiram’s to get these oil cooked dogs and not much has changed- the menu is still just hotdogs, hamburgers, french fries, onion rings and soda or beer.
Have them straight or with cheese, chili or red-onion sauce. There is a steady buzz from the open kitchen, six small tables crowded with a counter with another handful of seats and covered pots of self-serve saurkraut and relish sit on the counter by the door (ask for chopped white onions). The walls are covered with clipping and photos, the restrooms in the back are accessible only from outside and it fills with a clientele that cuts every which way across the social, ethnic and economic strata of New Jersey. The place is full of strongly held and voiced opinions (ask anyone behind the counter about the Rangers, for example), but the main one is that Hiram’s serves the best dogs in New Jersey.
We get an Urban Organic delivery each week. Neither of us buy into the organic food cult but this particular service pushes a number of buttons:
- variety – We were stuck in a rut, buying the same foods and making the same meals. Maria wanted us to eat more vegetables. Now we open the box and figure out what to make. They include a newsletter with recipes in the box but we usually find our own.
- automatic – We know that every Tuesday there will be a box of fresh vegetables and fruits waiting for us.
- home delivery – Until Fresh Direct realizes that Manhattan doesn’t stop at 125th street, this is the best option.
- quality – We’ve yet to receive produce that wasn’t in very good condition which makes you wonder why so often the produce at the other groceries (excepting Fairway) looks like it was trampled.
- value – You get a lot of produce for $33 and it’s a healthy challenge to eat all the veggies.
So we got this squash in the last box. It was big. Maria doesn’t like the traditional preparations of squash all that much. Over the past few weeks I roasted and ate a couple of small ones when she was out and we made a mash from one and used one in a pilaf but this one was too big for that. What to do with it? Maria came up with an answer: Ravioli. Okay, I’m game.
We split, seeded and quartered it and roasted it covered with a little water in the pan. Once it cooled we scooped the flesh into a bowl and stirred in 8 oz. of Ricotta, (a lot) of salt, some fresh ground nutmeg and a little black pepper. Despite the cheery example of Mario Batali on the Food Network, making pasta, especially without a machine, is the private domain of Italian grandmothers. Neither of us have had someone transgress the omerta of turning semolina into pasta not paste, so we substituted gyoza wrappers. We put a scant tablespoon of filling in the center and then a dab of water on the edge and fold and crimp the dumpling. After making forty we put the remaining filling into a freezer bag for later use in a lasagna.
We’ve had two people ask for this recipe from Maria’s aunt Shirley. We serve it as dessert but if you have a sweet tooth it makes a nice side dish.
- 3 to 4 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 cup flaked coconut
- 1 cup mini-marshmallows
- 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
- 1/2 stick butter, softened
Combine potatoes, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, cinnamon and butter. Stir in coconut, marshmallows and pineapple. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture. Pour into a buttered 2 quart casserole. Make a streusel topping by combining
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
and sprinkle it over the mixture. Bake at 325F for 35 minutes.