This Year at the White House/Obama's Seder (Official White House photo by Pete Souza), which just happened to be organized by Carolyn's Harvard classmate.
President Obama hosted his history-making Passover seder at the White House, and we were invited to two here in Oregon, that most secular of states where there are more Buddhists than Jews (but lots of Jew-Bus).
Homemade rye matzo
The first invite came at a matzo-making party I attended with my chef friend Intaba. She’s teaching me to make all the Jewish breads. It’s really a wonder more folks don’t make their own matzo instead of subsisting on the Manischewitz boxed-stuff. You just mix two cups of flour to one cup of water, don’t let it sit more than 18 minutes and then bake at 400 degrees. But I realize, who has time to make matzo when preparing the other dishes for the seder feast?
For our first seder, I prepared an unusually savory carrot and sweet potato tzimmes, accented with fresh thyme and chopped green onions. I’d make this side dish year round. That the veggies are roasted with lots of butter doesn’t hurt. I also made a Sephardic version of charoset, blending dried figs, dates, apricots and raisins together with the traditional apples and walnuts. It got rave reviews and the fruity paste spread nicely on matzo.
Carrot and Sweet Potato Tzimmes
We’re constantly impressed by the kindness of practical strangers, and neighbors, here. We had only met the host of the Wednesday night seder once, and there we were comfortably reclining around her table until 11 p.m.
But our Friday night hosts, Slow Food Corvallis president Ann Shriver and her husband Larry Lev, both of OSU’s agricultural econ department, we met back during our first weekend in Corvallis. I made the matzo ball soup for that meal. Let’s just say the balls were a tad rubbery and marked with my fingerprints, rather than in perfect spheres. Still tasted good though. Ann prepared a feast: Moroccan chicken tagine (see recipe below), purple cauliflower and potato puree, grilled asparagus and Greek salad. Larry’s simple Ashkenazi-style charoset was sweet and delicate: peeled and grated apples, chopped walnuts and pecans, a bit of grated lemon peel and dashes of wine, cinnamon and sugar. Ann indulged us with a cheese course (featuring a prize-winning hard Tumalo goat cheese from Bend) and a delicate ginger-dark chocolate mousse served, with a fresh whipped cream cap, in demitasse cups. It was an informal, secular, social justice-minded seder. We didn’t even go back to the haggagah after the meal. Very reminiscient of the McCandlish-Friedberg seders growing up. I was right at home! Next year in Corvallis, right?
Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Olives (from Ann Shriver)
Here’s the recipe I promised you. It’s not difficult but does require a lot of time and planning. Believe it or not it comes from an ancient “Food and Wine” magazine that someone gave me about 23 years ago. The article is by Paula Wolfert who is a pretty well known chef of Moroccan food.
First you need to make the lemons, at least 7 days in advance (14 is even better.)
I use the regular thick skinned lemons. I wonder how it would be with Meyer lemons? Anyone have experience with those?
7 day preserved lemon
2 ripe lemons
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Scrub the lemons and dry well. Cut each into 8 wedges. Toss with the salt and place in a 1/2 pint glass jar with a plastic-coated lid. Pour in the lemon juice. Close tightly and let ripen in a warm place for (at least) 7 days, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. To store, add olive oil to cover and refrigerate for up to 6 months.
Marinated chicken with lemons and olives (Tagine Meshmel)
1/4 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
3/8 tsp ground cumin
pinch of powdered saffron (I used a pinch in the marinade and another good pinch in the stew, and I used whole, not powdered.)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 cinnamon stick (I used a couple of shakes of ground cinnamon instead)
pieces of chicken–thighs and breasts, but I cut the split breasts further into two pieces (I used 5 split breasts and 6 thighs, and removed the skins to make the dish less greasy.)
2 1/2 c. grated spanish onions (~2 large)
1/4 c chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 1/2 c. green greek-style cracked olives (I used a mix of green and black ones from the co-op, and I didn’t bother pitting them)
16 wedges of preserved lemon, pulp removed, peel rinsed, and sliced thinly
1/4 to 1/3 c fresh lemon juice, to taste.
1. In a large bowl combine the ingredients up to and including cinnamon, plus 1/4 c water. Roll the pieces of chicken in the mixture, cover and refrigerate overnight in the fridge, or for an hour at room temperature. (The recipe calls for using the chicken livers. I did not do this. I think it would make the dish taste quite different.)
2. The next day put the chickens, livers, and marinade into a large pot. Add 1/2 c of the grated onion, the parsley , coriander and 2 c water. (I also added a good pinch of saffron to the broth.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
3. (If using), remove the livers from the pot and mash them to a paste and reserve. Add remaining 2 c grated onion. Continue to cook, partially covered, for another 1/2 hour or so, until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Cover with foil and keep warm.
4. Add the olives, preserved lemon (and reserved liver paste, if using) to the sauce. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes. If you haven’t removed the chicken skins, you may need to skim off the fat at this point. Add the lemon juice (and salt to taste–but I didn’t add any as I found it quite salty enough.), pour over the chicken, and serve (I actually let it sit in the sauce for an hour or so covered with foil in a warm oven, before we ate it.)