|The Bread of Affliction|
We consider ourselves equal opportunity feast attenders. And nothing puts the feast in holiday the way Passover does. In our house, it's not that Passover is pot-luck, but everyone does bring part of the meal. Which is great, because if just one person had to make the whole of this elaborate ritual meal, that would mean cooking for a week, and putting life on hold for the duration. As I had a movie to work on, a house to run, a son to raise, and a husband to argue with, I thought it was a good idea to limit my contributions to:
homemade matzot (that's the plural of matza, for the uninitiated: unleavened bread aka the bread of affliction )
soup with matza balls
a layered roasted vegetable dish inspired by the terrine made by the chubbyvegetarian at chubbyvegetarian.blogspot.com
our famous gluten-free brownies
I ended up throwing in some fabulous healthy fudge, and made three kinds of matza instead of just plain.
The matza is the same as what we had last year, and it was so good that of course we're having it again this year. It was motivated by a recipe shared with me by Erin McGuire. Thanks Erin. Everyone loved it.
The soup will be a new one. I was inspired by a bunch of organic leeks I saw at the store, and was imagining something starting with leeks sauteed to luscious perfection in coconut oil, and a broth of simmered celery and carrot for depth and sweetness. Buttery leeks and the savoury matza balls together, garnished with plenty of parsley from our window garden ...
The layered vegetable and goat cheese dish was an experiment. It involved roasted vegetables, goat cheese, ricotta, spinach, sauteed grape tomato sauce, and some organic eggs, so how bad could it be? I personally thought it was pretty terrific. Hope I wasn't the only one.
The brownies have been a favourite since their inception. I made a double batch a week ago, and we went through 2/3 of it in less than 24 hours as people dropped by just to nab one or two. Just for kicks, I upped the ante this time by throwing in a handful of Callebaut chocolate morsels. Death by chocolate, anyone?
The secret, in my opinion, has nothing to do with asking the universe for what you want. Pish tosh on that, I say. The secret is as follows: when preparing for any big holiday meal, or party for that matter, break your tasks down into small manageable bites that you can accomplish in the week leading up instead of having to do it all at once, over the course of many many hours, on the day of. Much, much better, in my opinion.
One of the things I appreciate about these gluten free brownies is their content of coconut flour, which keeps them super moist and fluffy even days after they are made. So, these are a gimme as far as making ahead goes. Ditto the fudge, and certainly the soup broth. You could also make the matza balls ahead, and store them in an airtight container. Just heat them up in your broth and you're good to go.
The layered baked vegetable and goat cheese dish was a little time consuming, but I broke it down as follows: three days ahead and prepped and roasted all the vegetables. I also sauteed up the grape tomatoes. Two days ahead, I made my cheese mixtures, and assembled the beast. Finally, on the day of, three hours before dinner, I put it in the oven, baked it for two hours, and then let it cool for one before I de-panned, inverted, and plated it. And I've got the pictures to prove it.
So, really, all I actually had to do on the day of was make the matzot -- so many flavours, we'll be eating matza until Rosh Hashannah -- heat the soup up, and put the layered baked vegetable and goat cheese dish in the oven. Easy peasy. Of course, because the week leading up to Passover was so busy, I actually ended up making almost everything the day of. There you have it.
This was by no means all the food, however. Everyone brought something. Sandra brought a tofu and parsley dish, Ben brought a warm spinach salad, and his version of a spanakopita. My Sarah and Ted brought oven roasted vegetables, Kathryn and Hendrik brought wine, and Sharon brought farfel, the fixings for the seder plate, and meringue macaroons and fresh fruit to go with the brownies and fudge. Needless to say, everyone will be eating leftovers for a week ...