Thursday, March 18, 2010

Inauguration - Parshat Tzav

When I was studying in Israel for a year after high school I spent the first three hours of my morning in a class where we went through all five books of Moses in depth, but rather quickly. When we got to Leviticus my teacher, Shani Taragin, told our class about a practice popular in the Cheders (religious school houses for boys) of the old county. Before a Rabbi would start teaching his students the book of Leviticus (which was usually the first book in the curriculum) he would take out a jar of honey and have them each dip their finger in the jar and lick. This was meant to foster positive associations with this sometimes tedious book. My teacher, Shani, wanted us to similarly get off to a sweet start with the book and devised a less messy way of updating the old custom - she handed out lady finger cookies to each student in the class and had us dip those into honey and enjoy before embarking on our studies of Leviticus.

This still has reverberations for me today. After reading this week's portion, Parshat Tzav, I need a cookie. Well, it's not so bad- there are again lots of different sacrifices mentioned (not all meat) but Aaron and his sons are finally inaugurated to priesthood. Instead of honey or lady finger cookies, I'm going to share my favorite Passover cookie. Did you know that the meal offerings were all of unleavened bread - how like Passover. In that spirit I'll share another unleavened and hence Passover appropriate recipe.

But first, I want to wish my brother Benjy a Happy Bar Mitzvah Parsha! I still wouldn't trade you for all the cupcakes in the world (a tempting offer I famously turned down from a baker in my synagogue when Ben was a newborn, a story I referenced in the speech I gave at his Bar Mitzvah).

Walnut Cookies for Passover
These are like a marriage of a meringue and a macaroon. The tops of them puff up nice and crunchy and a little pocket of air forms between it and the chewy bottom. We make lots of these in my family for Passover since they disappear pretty quickly and are easy to throw together.

2 eggs

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup of matzah meal

2 cups of finely ground walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs and sugar until very light. Then stir in walnuts and matzah meal. Drop from a rounded teaspoon two inches apart onto a silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

Smoked Salmon and Swiss Chard Quiche

Some of you got very excited by this recipe that I listed in my Passover menus in the last post - and rightfully so. It is delicious, and was a welcomed break amidst all the meat meals I was preparing. So, here it is as requested by my neighbor Jessica - the most divine baker and ultimate comfort food maker (Jess fessed up that she found the recipe here)!

2 tbsp butter
2 cups milk
8 ounces of salmon fillet, skin removed
1/3 cup of onion, chopped
1/2 bunch of Swiss chard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Use 1 tbsp of butter to coat a 10 inch pie plate. Warm the milk in a pot over medium heat and then add the salmon fillets and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes so that fish flakes when poked with a fork.

Melt the other tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the onions along with washed and cut up Swiss Chard. Stir until tender and the liquid is reduced. Season with salt, pepper, marjoram and nutmeg. Spread this in the pie plate, followed by the flaked salmon.

Beat the eggs with a cup of the cooled milk from cooking the salmon. Pour the liquid mixture over the salmon and Swiss chard mixture. Bake for 35 minutes, make sure that the center of the quiche has set and serve warm.

Happy Passover to All You Readers!

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