For the past couple weeks, my friend, Jill Colella Bloomfield has been trying to come up with menu ideas for this year’s Seder meal, rather unsuccessfully. She is not having that many guests this year, and all her guests are under 35 years old and might be best described as urban hipsters. Not that urban hipsters don’t like a nice slice of brisket every now and again, but she was hoping to up her game and offer something a little more inspired than my tried and true traditional recipes.
Jill Colella Bloomfield is a cooking instructor and food writer. Her most recent book is Jewish Holidays Cookbook (DK, 2008) which contains both traditional and whimsical recipes such as (Plague of) Frog Meringues. She has agreed to share her story with us.
Hell's Kitchen Inspiration
Finally, inspiration hit and it came from, of all places, this week’s episode of Hell’s Kitchen, the cooking reality show where chefs compete under the wonderful and terrifying aegis of chef Gordon Ramsay. The quick competition between contestants this week required them to create a tapas dish in twenty minutes. I, of course, was on the couch with my requisite laptop, tapping away at recipe websites trying to dream up a Passover menu. Tapas—what if I avoided the heavy, sleep-inducing meal and instead created a series of varied dishes that would hold easily in the oven until the Shulhan Orekh, or actual meal part of the Seder, and would delight the vegetarians and meat eaters in the group. I realized that the reason I kept hitting the wall as I planned was because I was trying to create a balanced menu—with no chametz, or leavened foods, no less—but could not satisfy all the challenges of cooking and serving a Seder meal.
As I began to think about my favorite tapas restaurants, Jaleo in DC and Tapas Teatro in Baltimore, I started to get more excited by the creative latitude that this meal would provide. Since most tapas dishes rely on strong flavors, the need to cook with chametz falls away, and simple, fresh tastes can be the stars. I also plan to have some tapas ready when guests arrive, prior to Kiddush, to stave off the hunger that often happens as readers make their way through about twenty-eight pages of Haggadah before eating really begins.
Here’s what I am thinking for a menu:
A traditional Seder plate
A variety of red wines from Spain
Olive Tapenade with Matzoh
Chicken Soup Shooters garnished with a Matzoh Ball
Roasted Eggplant with Sweet Peppers
Cinnamon Chicken with Dates
Marinated Garbanzo Beans with Pepitos
Spanish Omelet with Onions
Gefilte Fish with Mojo Verde
Grilled Fruit with Whipped Cream
Here is my recipe for Olive Tapenade. If you expect a crowd, double the recipe. Make it up to two days ahead and store, covered, in the refrigerator.
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the garlic cloves into a blender or food processor; pulse to mince.
2. Add the olives, capers, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. Blend until everything is finely chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Serve with matzoh.
For more info: Jill is a regular blogger for BettyCrocker.com, and her blog will feature new recipes and ideas daily during Passover.