We sat around the table – at least 30 of us (aunts, uncles, in laws, cousins) all starving, with the food right there, ready to eat but not to touch, because grandpa had to conduct the Sedar—nothing short of the whole Haggadah…all 2 hours of it. Crowded tightly around my aunt’s table in Brooklyn, with us cousins at the kid’s table (even though most of us were at least 15), the adults right next to us at the expanded mahogany dining set, we prayed…hard… for the food to come.
And when the adults weren’t looking, we took extra sips (um, LOTS of them) of the Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine, so that by the end of the evening we were all dizzy and tipsy—because even then that high fructose beverage was enough to send us whirling—the only time we were “legally” allowed to drink.
Soon, it was time for the hard boiled eggs, dipped in salt water. Who knew an egg could taste so good? But I guess anything works when you’re starving! And as grandpa chanted on, we chorused back, we dipped, we reclined, we asked the questions and FINALLY, came the rest: the home made Gefilte fish, matzoh ball soup, followed by brisket, chicken, salad, potatoes, Passover kugel, spinach casserole, sweet potato pie, salad, and really, so much more I can’t even remember. We all yelled above the din, “please pass this and please pass that” until inevitably someone cracked the bad joke “no WONDER they call it Passover!” Yikes!
It’s not quite the same without grandma’s cooking but I’ll share with you the secrets of her Matzoh Ball Soup and for those of you who dare, her homemade Gefilte Fish:
- 1 lb. white fish
- 2 T. matzo meal or bread crumbs
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 C. water
- 1 t. salt, or to taste
- Dash pepper
- 2 carrots, scraped
- 1 stalk celery
Skin and bone fish, saving skin and bones for later use. Put fish and 1 onion through the finest blade of a food chopper, or chop finely. Add beaten eggs, matzo meal, water and seasonings. Mix well.
Using wet hands, form into balls the size of a lemon. Slice the other onion, carrots and celery and put in a large, heavy pot. Add to this the skin and bones of the fish. Over them, gently place the fish balls. Cover with the cold water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that forms, and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours.
Remove fish balls and continue to cook broth until it is reduced to about 1/3 of its original volume. Strain broth through several layers of cheesecloth and return fish balls and carrots to broth.
Cool. Serves 6-8.
Matzo Ball Soup (balls):
- 2 cups matzo meal
- 9 eggs
- 1/2 cup kosher for Passover vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Mix all of the ingredients together until evenly distributed (there should be no lumps). Cover with waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll dough into balls about the size of a golf ball. To keep batter from sticking to your hands, rub them with oil or water as needed. Drop balls immediately into boiling water.
Cook the balls for about 20 minutes or until done. They will sink to the bottom and then float back up to the top as they cook and the water returns to temperature. The balls should have expanded to be about 2 1/2 times their original size (about the size of a tennis ball). Check to make sure that the balls are done by cutting in half. The center should look grainy and yellow.
Remove balls from pot and use immediately or set them in a pot of cold water and let cold water run over them until completely cooled. Set them in cold water in the refrigerator until ready to use. They may be reheated either in the broth or in the water.
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 carrots cut into chunks
- 2 medium onions cut into chunks
- 2 parsnips cut into chunks
- 3 turnips cut into chunks
- 12 cloves of garlic
- 1 leek thinly sliced
- 3/4 teaspoon tumeric
- Pepper to taste
- Handful of parsley and dill
In a large stockpot, add all ingredients and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let cool. Strain vegetables out of the broth. Use immediately or it may be frozen.