Thursday, April 1, 2010

Passover Dinner - Lemon Matzoh Ball Soup with Pistachio Pistou


I had to step outside the Matzoh Ball box this time. Ok, I admit I live my life outside the matzoh ball box, especially my Jewish life.

The seders I prepare are in no way traditional so please don't hold me to any kind of kosher standard even though my maternal grandparents were both Jewish.  My Grandfather was  a talmud scholar and my Grandmother the daughter of a rabbi.  And me, well, I got kicked out of Hebrew school.  I can't remember why but I guess I was sort of a Jew-venile delinquent.

So I am not a religious Jew but usually I organize something to celebrate Jewish holidays.  It's important to me to acknowledge my ancestors and well, it just feels right to carry on traditions, as wacked out as my interpretations can be sometimes.

This soup was inspired by the recipe below.  I looking for something different because of a comment my husband made at my last Seder.  He thought the Matzoh Ball Soup I made was bland.  I had whipped up a traditional recipe but admittedly, it fell flat.  I didn't have a Seder this year but cooked a Passover dinner and still had this in my head when I designed the menu.

The last time I had a seder in Germany I was so preoccupied with the meal, I forgot the Haggadah needed to be in German.  I have a humanitarian version of the Hagaddah that I cannibalized from another one I found years ago on the internet.  I cut it way down and change it every year to refer to current events, both good and bad between people of all races and religions. Anyway, like I said, I was busy obsessing over the menu. At the last minute I started to translate it myself and with the clock ticking and frustration mounting caused by wrestling with my (meager) written translation skills,  I thought, "what the heck" and threw the entire text into a translation program, assigned everyone their reading parts, printed out the copies and went back to the kitchen.

That evening of the Seder, my husband had just arrived home from Iraq on leave from his UN mission. To travel out of Baghdad is a lengthy ordeal with elaborate security and logistics. What should be a 4 hour flight to Germany is two days travel time during which he gets no sleep.  Zero.  He was walking around the house in a fog in his sweatpants while I was all dressed up and running around the house like a maniac.  Meanwhile, my Mother in Law had arrived excited and full of energy.  She is a devout Catholic, has traveled to Israel several times and was thrilled to be invited to her first Seder.  Poor Hubby.

Everything was ready, the food, the Seder plate, the wine, I hid the afikomen and set out the cup of wine for Elijah. The table looked beautiful. About 3 minutes into reading the Haggada, my husband started chuckling and pretty soon he was laughing his head off.  At first I thought he was just giddy from exhaustion and thus refrained from kicking him (hard) under the table out of pity.  When he could speak again, he explained the translation program had twisted everything.  A lot of it just didn't make sense and some of the text was just plain silly and funny. This can happen when things are translated literally and not according to original meaning which of course, is what a translation program will do. Duh.

Meanwhile, my Mother in Law, because she is one of the most polite people in the universe,  kept shush-ing him.  She got the gist of it and kept encouraging us all to press on. 

I was beyond mortified watching my perfect Seder come crashing down around me.

They were both such good sports about it and at least the food was good, except Dr. B's dislike for the soup (which shows you how nuts I am that out of the whole disaster, I still remember Dr. B's soup snark.)  Ok, he was just being honest.  I can take criticism. Especially when it inspires creativity. Hence the lemon matzoh balls with the pistachio pistou. I also tried to add a bit more spice variety to the overall menu selection.

This time we just had a nice dinner, no Haggadah comical disasters. My husband was actually disappointed we were not reading the "funny" one from before. He would like to make it a tradition to read that specific horrifically translated Haggadah. Me, I wouldn't survive another go.

Here is the menu I served:

Lemon Matzoh Ball soup with 
Pistachio Pistou*
(adapted from Adam Perry Lang's recipe for Matzoh Ball Soup with Dill Pistou)

The addition of this pistou really sent the flavor over the top.  I would consider making this again for a non Passover meal.  It was that good.  The lemon Matzoh balls were delish.

*I substituted lemon olive oil instead of regular and added 2 Tsps of lemon zest to the mazoh ball mixture.  For the pistachio pistou, I followed Kevin Taylor's recipe from Food & Wine. I made my own chicken broth and only used carrots and onions in the soup.

Potato Kugel with Fried Shallots
Recipe Here

Spicy Farfel Stuffed Boneless Chicken
(Adapted by 4EveryKitchen food Blog, original recipe from Gourmet Magazine)

The stuffing - pre cooked:

Macaroons with White and Semisweet Chocolate Chunks

I combined coconut flakes with sweet condensed milk until the consistency was right to form the cookies, then I added the chocolate chunks and baked until they were golden brown on top but still gooey and chewy on the inside, 'cause that's the way I like 'em.

My table settings are always an eclectic mix.  The soup bowls are from Holland. The flatware I picked up at a market in Chang Mai, Thailand. The stemware is from Dublin. Napkins from Ross in LA (LOVE Ross).  The plates are Bavarian china I found in a local thrift store for 20 euro cents each.

I love these hand painted napkin rings I bought in Moscow on my 40th birthday trip.

So next Germany (but only with a perfectly translated Haggadah)

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