Thursday, April 5, 2007

Poached Gefilte Fish

Gefilte fish, literally "stuffed fish," used to be like a fish mousse cooked in the fish skin. Today, gefilte fish is known as balls of processed freshwater fish (whitefish, carp, pike) vacuum-packed in gelatinous goo. You can easily the stuff right out of the jar, but poaching it makes gefilte fish a little sweeter and less fishy.

Although I credit my favorite aunt with this recipe, it was really inspired by my mother and grandmother.

1 64-oz. jar gefilte fish, packed in jelly
2 small onions, peeled and quartered
2-3 carrots, peeled, and sliced in 1/4" circles.
  1. Remove fish from jar and set aside.
  2. Pour fish jelly into a 6-quart stockpot. Add onions and sliced carrots. Bring the jelly to a simmer, not a rolling boil.
  3. Add the fish balls to the pot. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove fish from pot and chill on plates or platters.
  4. When the fish is completely cool, serve each fish ball on a lettuce leaf and top with a slice of cooked carrot.
Note: Poached gefilte fish is best made in advance and chilled in the refrigerator, so you can serve it cold. To store the fish, place the poached fish balls back into their original jar. Remove the carrots from the poaching liquid and store separately. Cover the fish balls with the poaching liquid. Seal tightly and store.

Sephardic Charoset

Charoset, a mixture of chopped fruits and nuts, symbolized the mortar used by the Israelite slaves in Egypt. Recipes vary greatly, depending on the family's country of origin. My family is decidedly Ashkenazi (Eastern European), but Sephardic (Mediterranean and Asian) flavors really perk up otherwise bland Passover food. You can use this condiment like a chutney, and it would be good with roasted meat – lamb – or poultry.

2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2/3 cup Mission figs (6 oz.)
2/3 dried apricots (6 oz.)
2/3 cup golden raisins (6 oz.)
1 1/3 cups walnuts, finely chopped, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup sweet red wine (sweet Passover wines are good to use)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Place the apples in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the figs, apricots, raisins and pulse all until finely chopped.
  2. Transfer fruit mixture to a bowl. Add walnuts and wine and mix well. Sprinkle cinnamon and ginger over top and mix again well.
Makes about 3 cups. Can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.

Roasted Vegetables With Balsamic Vinaigrette

The original recipe appeared on Gourmet's website and included endive. Blech! While I mostly like endive, it was a bitter and disharmonious addition to this recipe. That's why I adjusted things and made it my own.

1 medium eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/4" circles
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. zucchini, washed, dried, and cut on an angle into 1/4" circles
2 large red onions, sliced into 1/4" circles
2 medium red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1" squares
2 medium yellow peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1" squares
1 lb. yellow squash, washed, dried, and cut on an angle into 1/4" circles
salt and pepper to taste

Special equipment: 2 jumbo zipper bags (2-gallon), 2 large baking sheets, wire whisk
  1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  2. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and set aside.
  3. Divide the eggplant, zucchini, red onions, peppers, and squash between 2 2-gallon zipper bags. Pour 1/3 of the vinaigrette into each bag and seal. Gently toss the vegetables in the vinaigrette until well-coated. Pull out the eggplant circles and lay some in a single layer in each pan; add one bag of vegetables to each pan and distribute evenly.
  4. Place one baking sheet on the bottom oven rack and the other on the middle oven rack. Roast the vegetables for 10 minutes and remove them from the oven. Turn all the vegetables, including the eggplant slices, and return the pans to the oven. Make sure you swap the top pan for the bottom and vice versa (rotate shelves). Roast the vegetables for another 10 minutes and set them aside to cool. Season each tray of vegetables with salt and pepper to taste. The vegetables should still have a crisp bite to them when they are done.
  5. Once the vegetables are cool, arrange them on serving platters and drizzle them with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.
Makes 8-10 servings.