Food Memories of
by Norene Gilletz
This will be my second Passover without my mother. Mom
(A’H’) passed away on December 10th, 2011, just two weeks short of her 97th birthday.
Belle Rykiss was an outstanding cook and baker. She would make the most delicious meichels for her family and rarely needed to refer to a written recipe. Weeks before Pesach, we would have discussions on the best way to make the lightest, best-tasting Passover sponge cake, debating on how many eggs we needed to ensure that the cake would reach the very top of the tube pan. She would use a combination of potato starch and cake meal – she hated the taste of cakes made with just potato starch. I loved when she added grated bittersweet chocolate to her cake batter.
She also made scrumptious Passover kigelach which would expand and puff up in her bekelach (muffin pans). I can still taste those plump, portable puddings in my mind’s eye, savouring food memories of Passovers past. I will be making kigelach for Passover once again this year, knowing that my mom will be watching over me from up above, making sure that I’m doing it just right.
My mother made matzo balls that were light and
puchedich. During the year, she would add baking powder to the batter to make them as light as a cloud. Either omit it during Passover, or use Passover baking powder. My mom could always tell the difference between matzo balls made from a mix and those that were homemade. You could rarely fool my mother!
When my Auntie Clara Tobin was alive, she would make huge white “sinkers” each Passover. There were usually 25 or 30 hungry guests at her long series of tables which stretched from one end of her dining room to the far end of her living room. She would prepare the mixture earlier in the day. As soon as the Seder began, she would shape the kneidlach and drop them into a huge pot of boiling water to simmer away. Her giant matzo balls were served “hot from the pot” as soon as the first part of the Seder finished. My cousin Myrna Golden and I always managed to eat at least two or three. Unfortunately, my Auntie Clara’s recipe has been lost over the years, much to our dismay, so my cousin Myrna usually uses a mix. However, the memory of Auntie Clara’s marvellous matzo balls and her special smile will always live on in my memory.
Besides texture, quantity is another big question. At the Passover Seder, I think that perhaps the fifth question should be, “How many matzo balls would you like – one or two?” The polite son replies “Two please, if you have enough!” But the hungry son replies, “I’ll have at least four!”
MOM’S MATZO BALLS
The NEW Food Processor Bible: 30th Anniversary Edition
1/2 cup oil
1 cup matzo meal
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Passover baking powder
Process all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the Steel Blade just until smooth, about 10 seconds. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or in the freezer for 20 minutes, until thickened.
Shape into small balls. Drop into boiling salted water in a large pot and cook, partially covered, for about 40 minutes.
Yield: 14 to 16. May be frozen in soup.
Chef’s Tip: Freeze uncooked matzo ball mixture in ice cube trays. When needed, drop frozen matzo balls in boiling water and cook partly covered for 35 to 40 minutes. Kids love them in different shapes!
Looking for a different twist on matzo balls this Passover? The following recipe for fusion-style matzo balls is excerpted from The Perfect Passover Cookbook, copyright 2011 by Judy Bart
Kancigor. Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York. All Rights Reserved. Available wherever e-books are sold."
SHIITAKE MUSHROOM MATZO BALLS
From Judy Bart Kancigor
Neither of my daughters-in-law ever liked matzo balls until I came up with this recipe. I doctored up plain old matzo ball mix—and a fine product it is!—with shiitake mushrooms and scallions for a shtetl favorite with an Asian twist. (Not surprising. Jews have had a long love affair with Chinese food!) Go ahead and double or even triple the recipe (and you may have to!), but be careful not to crowd the pot when you are cooking them.
Makes 24 to 30 golf-ball-size balls
1/4 cup melted chicken fat or vegetable oil
4 scallions, white and half the green part, thinly sliced
3 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, finely chopped (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1 envelope matzo ball mix, such as Manischewitz
1/2 cup matzo meal
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder (see Notes)
2 tablespoons club soda, chicken broth, or water
1. Heat the chicken fat in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions and mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Combine the matzo ball mix with the matzo meal in a medium-size bowl. Add the eggs and mix well. Stir in the mushroom mixture (with the oil), parsley, salt, white pepper, and baking powder. Add the club soda and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and lightly salt it.
4. Form the mixture into balls that are a little larger than a marble, wetting your hands if necessary to keep them from sticking. Drop the balls into the boiling water and cook, covered, at a slow, steady boil (not a hard boil) until tender, about 30 minutes (depending on the size of the balls).
5. Carefully remove the matzo balls with a slotted spoon, and serve in soup.
For Passover use kosher-for-Passover baking powder, or if unavailable, it may be omitted.
You will find that after cooking these matzo balls, the cooking liquid is so flavorful, it is almost a soup in itself, particularly if you have used chicken fat. I use this broth instead of water in soups and stews and for cooking rice.
Alternate serving suggestion: Allow the matzo balls to cool somewhat. Cut into bite-size pieces to be eaten by hand. Offer several whole for throwing. Serve my mother’s Chicken Soup, lukewarm on the side in a sippy cup.
MY MOM’S PASSOVER KIGELACH
Second Helpings Please!
2 1/2 cups matzo farfel
2 cups boiling water
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil or chicken fat
Pour boiling water over farfel. Let stand for 10 minutes. Pour off excess water.
Combine farfel, eggs, salt and oil and mix well. Place a little oil in the bottom of muffin tins, and heat in oven. Divide mixture evenly into 12 compartments.
Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until nicely browned. These are delicious in chicken soup, or as a side dish with meat. The texture is like that of noodle
6 to 12 servings.
MY MOTHER’S PASSOVER CAKE
The NEW Food Processor Bible: 30th Anniversary Edition
You need an electric mixer to make this cake but use your processor to grate the chocolate. You will also need two large mixing bowls for this recipe. So good, that you won’t believe it’s a Passover cake!
3 ounces chilled bittersweet chocolate bar
1/2 cup almonds (optional)
9 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup cake meal
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Steel Blade: Break chocolate into 1-inch chunks. Process until fine, about 30 seconds. Add almonds (if using). Process until almonds are finely chopped, 12 to 15 seconds longer.
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks with an electric mixer until light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sugar and water and beat on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes. Combine potato starch and cake meal. Sprinkle over yolk mixture a little at a time (a sifter or strainer will help) and fold in carefully. Then fold in grated chocolate and nuts. Wash beaters thoroughly and dry well.
In another large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with salt until stiff but not dry. Carefully fold into batter. Pour gently into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Batter should come to within 1 1/2 inches of top of pan. If necessary, make a 2-inch collar with foil around top of pan.
Bake for 1 hour, then reduce heat to 300 F for 15 minutes. Invert immediately and cool completely.
Yield: 15 servings. Freezes well.
Gilletz, Cookbook Author, Food Writer
Gourmania Inc., Toronto, Canada, M2J 2S4
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