It all began last Monday at our Passover Seder. Among the 18 people was Elaine, George and their daughter Alanna—our close friends who are Russian Orthodox (George) and Italian/Polish/Catholic (Elaine). We have developed a tradition of sharing each others holidays because it seems that our love of great food transcends all.
For our seder, my mother was cooking all of the main courses, including Elaine’s favorite dish: my mom’s brisket. Before Monday, Elaine was asking me questions like “how many pounds is she making?” and “would anyone notice if I gorged myself on it and then snuck a Tupperware filled with it?” I wasn’t watching closely, but I think she did pretty well that night.
This past Saturday, husband Josh, 14 year old Mike and I, left our house at 11pm to celebrate Russian Easter with George, Elaine and the rest of their family. The evening began with church, followed by vodka shots and a feast starting around 1:30 am. Lots of fun and great eating ensued and all the while me thinking: “not sure how many more days my body can sustain this eating….”
Yesterday, after a great hike with my soon-to-be-high-school-graduate Harry, I was lying on the couch reading a book when Elaine called:
-“want to walk the dogs?”
-“no, already hiked 2 hours and have to finish this book”
-“You know, oh-brisket-lover, I heard about a really easy brisket recipe that I am planning to use for my upcoming “Jewish Meal for 50 Frat Boys.” All you do is spread ketchup all over the top of the brisket, sprinkle it with Lipton Onion soup mix, add enough water to fill the baking dish halfway up the brisket, tent foil over it and bake at 350 for 3-4 hours. Slice at the end.”
-“Perfect”, Elaine replied. “Easy and quick. Would you buy me a brisket when you buy yours this week?”
-“You sure you don’t want to walk?”
-“No but I’ll make you a deal: bring me some of the kulich and paskha from last night along with a piece of the pistachio cake you made for the seder and I’ll give you the VERY LAST piece of brisket I have.”
15 minutes later: Nosh on wheels arrived and I scored pistachio cake (which was better today, after having been frozen for 5 days) along with kulich and paskha. I left shortly after for my parents, to return the borrowed soup bowls and other cooking paraphernalia. I brought them kulich and paska, which they had never had before but like me, loved. It’s the Cross Cultural Nosh on Wheels!
RECIPES: All of these are DELICIOUS!!
Paskha, From Whats4Eats.com: Paskha is a pyramid-shaped confection that is served for Easter in the Eastern Orthodox homes of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and also in Poland and Lithuania. Similar in taste to a cheesecake without the crust, paskha is traditionally spread on slices of kulich, a sweet Easter bread.
6 to 8 servings
• Farmer’s cheese (see variations) — 2 pounds
• Unsalted butter, room temperature — 1/2 pound (2 sticks)
• Sugar — 1 1/2 cups
• Egg yolks, hard-cooked — 6
• Heavy cream — 1 cup
• Blanched almonds, finely ground — 1/2 cup
• Lemon zest, finely chopped — 2 tablespoons
• Vanilla — 1 1/2 teaspoons
• Raisins — 1/4 cup
1. Drain farmer’s cheese overnight in a fined-meshed sieve or through several layers of cheesecloth. After the cheese has drained, press it through a medium-meshed sieve once or twice to break up the curds and make it light and fluffy. Set aside.
2. Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.
3. Reduce speed to medium low and beat in the farmer’s cheese, heavy cream, almonds, lemon zest and vanilla.
4. Line a pashka mold or a clean terracotta flowerpot with cheesecloth that has been rinsed with water and squeezed dry. Fill the mold or pot with the cheese mixture. Place a lid or a small plate on top of the mold and set a weight on top. Place the mold in a bowl to catch any liquid and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
5. Unmold the paskha onto a serving plate and use the raisins to decorate the sides.
Kulich, from whatsforeats.com Kulich is a tall, cylindrical sweet bread that is served for Easter in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. It is traditionally paired with paskha, above. The two confections are taken to church on Easter Sunday to be blessed by the local priest. Then for the Easter meal, slices of kulich are spread with paskha and eaten. If you don’t have a kulich mold, you will need a 2-pound coffee can for this recipe.
6 to 8 servings
• Milk — 1/2 cup
• Sugar — 1/2 cup
• Unsalted butter, room temperature — 8 tablespoons
• Salt — 1 teaspoon
• Lukewarm (110°F) water — 1/4 cup
• Active dry yeast — 1 (1/4-ounce) package
• Flour — 4 cups
• Eggs, beaten — 2
• Egg yolks, beaten — 2
• Cardamom — 2 teaspoons
• Vanilla — 1 teaspoon
• Golden raisins — 1/2 cup
• Raisins or chopped candied fruit — 1/4 cup
• Powdered (confectioner’s) sugar — 1 cup
• Heavy cream — 3 tablespoons
• Vanilla — 1/2 teaspoon
1. Add the milk, sugar, butter and salt to a saucepan and heat, stirring until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm.
2. Mix the 1/4 cup lukewarm water and yeast together in a small bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
3. Add 3 1/2 cups of the flour to large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, warm milk-butter-sugar mixture, the eggs, yolks, cardamom and vanilla. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and bring the dough together. Toss the golden raisins with a little flour and stir into the dough.
4. Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead, adding extra flour as needed, until the dough is no longer sticking to your hands and is silky and elastic. Remove the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm corner until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a kulich pan or a 2-pound coffee can. Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and punch it down with your fists to deflate it. Place the dough in the prepared baking pan and cover with greased plastic wrap. Set aside to rise for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until the dough reaches the top of the pan.
6. Remove the plastic wrap and place the pan on a baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
7. Let the kulich cool in its pan for 20 minutes, then carefully remove it from the pan. To glaze, mix the the powdered sugar, cream and vanilla together in a small bowl. Pour the glaze over the top of the kulich while it is still a little warm, letting it drizzle down the sides. Use the raisins or candied fruit to decorate the top with an Orthodox cross or with the Cyrillic letters XB, which stand for “Christ is risen.”
8. To serve your kulich, cut off the rounded crown and set it aside. Cut the loaf in half vertically, then set the halves on their sides and cut into half-moon slices. Replace the crown to keep any remaining bread moist.
• If you don’t have a 2-pound coffee can, you can use two smaller coffee or juice cans instead. The baking time will be reduced due to the smaller sizes.
• In addition to the golden raisins, chopped nuts or candied fruit can also be kneaded into the dough.
Almond Cake With Cardamom and Pistachio, from New York Times
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus additional for pan
7 large eggs, separated
3 cups almonds
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon matzo meal
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 tablespoon almond extract
Confectioners’ sugar (kosher for Passover), for dusting
Finely chopped pistachio nuts, for garnish.
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9-inch bundt pan or a 9-inch square pan and set aside. Using a stand mixer, whisk egg whites until stiff but not dry, and set aside.
2. Using a large food processor, pulse almonds until very finely ground, stirring once or twice to prevent them from turning into a paste. In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar, and whisk to blend. Add ground almonds, matzo meal and cardamom. Add almond extract and 1/2 cup oil. Gently fold in egg whites.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and finish cooling on a rack. To decorate, dust with confectioners’ sugar and chopped pistachios.
Yield: One 9-inch cake (10 to 12 servings).