Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Traditions

I have a revered fascination for the Jewish religion.
This is always, especially renewed come Spring and the 
holiday of Passover. So rich with stories, flavors
and traditions, the food and culture deserve to be shared.
From Michael Berg:

"Leavened bread represents our ego, our need to be known, to rise, to overtake others, all the negative aspects of ego and selfishness. This time of year, then, is an important time of reflection -- what is my “leavened bread;” what is it about myself that I want to refrain from, that I want to remove from my life? Through this reflection we become better, stronger, and more connected to the supernal Light, receiving the blessings and fulfillment for which we are destined." 
Michael Berg is a Kabbalah scholar and author. He is co-Director of The Kabbalah Centre, www.kabbalah.com. You can follow Michael on twitter, twitter.com/inspiringchange. His latest book is What God Meant.

‘Uncle Morty’s Gourmet Matzos Brie’

First crumble but don’t emulsify a box of unsalted matzos (Streit’s Matzos—in business since 1925). Marinate the matzo until soft in whole milk. Draw the milk—it can be reused but not in breakfast cereal because the kids hate that. In a separate bowl, scramble 5 eggs. Meanwhile, sauté a yellow onion, finely chopped, in a little oil or butter if you aren’t of a mind to have your matzos brie with jelly. Add the cooked onions to the eggs. Add the eggs and onions to the soft matzos. Toss these ingredients about and pour into a frying pan with a generous amount of butter. Turn often until golden brown. You want the matzo to still be moist when served so don’t over fry! Add salt (or better yet, truffle salt if you’re feeling decadent) and pepper. Serve it up hot.

From Joan Nathan:

The first time I met a real McCoy matzo brei maven, I was in the Bronx at my Polish mother in law’s. She took a matzo square and carefully set it into cold water. Then she dabbed it dry, scrambled some eggs over and under it, heated up some margarine or chicken fat in a frying pan, and carefully placed the matzo on top of the sizzling fat. Gently cooking it until golden on both sides, she served it to us. For my husband Allan, this is matzo brei.
Yiddish for “fried matzo”, this is one of those holiday recipes that has nothing whatsoever to do with religion- just gastronomy. An eagerly anticipated Passover treat, it is also served year round for breakfast or brunch in the United States. In Europe, it’s a common Passover dinner.
Despite the simplicity of the dish, matzo brei has as many variations as there were shtetls in Eastern Europe. Though one thing is certain- it cannot be made with milk (unless, of course, you’re Steven Spielberg). With milk, it is like pastrami on white bread or chicken livers with mayonnaise. How could Eastern European Jews, with only goose fat available for frying, include milk in matzo brei?
Perhaps the American fascination with matzo brei began in the Jewish hotels in the Catskills, or it may just be the ease of preparation at home. After all, it consists of soaking matzo in water, squeezing gently, and then frying in grease with an egg. The dish can be molded to a savory or sweet palate, depending on how it is served, and it can also be made soft or crispy. For savory breis, mushrooms, Swiss chard, spinach or whatever is available in your supermarket or farmers’ market will do. Sweet toppings include honey, cinnamon-sugar, and even — by some iconoclasts — catsup!
One Passover I held a matzo cook-off when the late Sheila Lukins was visiting. I honestly can’t remember who won, but her secret ingredient, caramelized onion, proved that the wonderful variations of matzo brei are truly endless, and every household claims that its version is the best. The following is my most basic version of this Passover classic, one that I am told the famous Emanuel brothers – Rahm, Zeke, and Ari make. Be creative and put your own imprint on this age-old recipe.

Matzo Brei, adapted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook

    Serves 2-3
  • 3 matzo squares
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chicken fat, oil, or butter for frying
  • cinnamon-sugar, honey, maple syrup, or catsup
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and pour into a bowl. Break the matzos and soak in the water for about 5 minutes. Drain and gently squeeze dry. Return the matzos to the empty bowl.
Stir the eggs and salt and pepper with the matzos.
Heat the chicken fat, oil or butter in a frying pan. Then, take tablespoonfuls of batter at a time, gently frying, patting the center down a bit. You can make several small pancakes or one large pancake. When golden brown on one side, turn gently with two spatulas and fry on the other. Serve as is or topped with cinnamon-sugar, honey, maple syrup, or even catsup! These and more at GOOP.