First, a word from our sponsor: We interrupt Alix Wall’s posts about Vietnam (at least one more is still coming) to write about a more immediate concern: What is Alix going to cook for Passover?
My husband and I are hosting our family for Pesach. Maybe that isn’t a big deal for some of you, but for me, it is. I only had the seder at my house one other time, and I was so busy that I pretty much let all my family members do all the cooking. Not this year.
I am taking it very seriously this year; maybe because this is the first year that we are hosting, instead of just me. And maybe because I’m thinking of my mom now, and how flawlessly she could pull off a seder. Passover can be a difficult time of year for me; she died only a month after it. She was already very ill at her last seder, in 2002, but she managed to do a great deal of the cooking anyhow.
My uncle has let it be known that his expectations are high, now that I’m a professional chef. I don’t care about that so much. What’s dominating my thoughts these days is the memory of the pecan matzoh balls.
My cousins Mike and Rebecca were hosting that year. They were then living in Houston. They found the recipe in Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America, and saw that pecan matzoh balls originated in Dallas. Since they were temporary Texans, they thought it would be, well, cute.
They thought wrong. While I can truly say that my family are all pretty much foodies, and like trying new things, when it comes to the Jewish holidays, they want their traditional fare. The one exception is Sephardic charoset, which has been a staple of our seders for years now.
This is why I’m such a stress-case now. The other night I was looking in The Gefilte Variations by Jayne Cohen, one of the many cookbooks I inherited from mom. I came upon roasted fennel matzoh balls. I love the sound of them, but do I dare? Or do I stick with the tried and true?
This also goes for kugels. Do I stick with a boring old potato kugel, or instead make one with wild mushrooms and roasted garlic, or cauliflower and leeks? With kugel, it’s an easier decision, but somehow the matzoh ball one seems huge. Have you ever tinkered with your matzoh balls, adding something non-traditional to them? Was it successful? I’d love to hear about it.
Photo credit: Cooking for Engineers