We asked our GP family for their Easter and Passover food memories. We hope you’ll take inspiration from them!
Ronnie Davis and Liz Neumark
Most of you already know that I come from three generations of kosher caterers, and I was raised working in a kosher kitchen. One of the greatest joys of my childhood was helping out on the Jewish holidays. I remember running up and down the dark wooden stairs, giving clients their orders of gefilte fish and other holiday delights.
Over the years, the recipe has changed slightly, but it has remained basically the same. Last year we wrote about my family recipe for gefilte fish, however it has been many years since I actually made it myself …so this year, Liz and I decided to actually make it together. The Holidays mean spending time with family and friends as well as celebrating the traditions that bind us.
The recipe is below for those brave enough to try. Remember, when it comes to Jewish cooking, I have never measured anything in my life. Gefilte fish like all traditional foods…it must be made with touch, feel and love.
8-9 pounds whole carp, pike or whitefish, and pollock (can use cod instead of pollock) filleted and ground*
4-5 quarts cold water
1 large turnip, peeled (white is best but yellow will also work)
1 medium sized parsnip, peeled
6-8 Spanish onions, peeled
4-6 stalks of celery, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
6-8 medium carrots, peeled
2-3 tablespoons sugar (optional)
4 to 6 large eggs
3-4 tsp freshly ground pepper (to taste)
3-4 tsp of kosher salt (to taste)
6-8 bay leaves
1/3–1/2 cup matzo meal
*Ask your fishmonger to grind the fish. Ask him to save the tails, skin, fins, heads, and bones. Be sure he gives them all to you.
Place the reserved bones, skin, and fish heads in a wide, long fish steamer. If you do not have one, use a large sauce pan with a cover. Add the water, 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper, the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Remove the foam that accumulates.
Add 3 onions along with 3 of the carrots and the celery. Cut all in ½ inch slices. Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes while the fish mixture is being prepared.
Place the ground fish in a bowl. In a food processor finely chop the remaining onions, the remaining carrot, the parsnip and the turnip. (Not too fine. Do not let them liquefy.)
Add the chopped vegetables to the ground fish.
Add the eggs, one at a time, salt & pepper to taste, and no more than a cup of cold water and mix thoroughly. Stir in enough matzo meal to make the mixture hold its shape. Wet your hands with cold water (or a little safflower oil), and scooping up about ¼ cup of fish form the mixture into oval shapes the size of your hand, about 4-5 inches long.
Gently place the fish patties in the simmering fish stock. Place them right on top of onions, skins, head, and bones and return the stock to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Taste the liquid while the fish is cooking and add salt and pepper to taste.
When the gefilte fish is cooked, carefully remove from the steamer with a slotted spoon, and arrange on a small sheet pan to cool for at least 15 minutes.
Strain the stock….it should gel when chilled. Serve over the fish.
Serve with a sprig of fresh parsley and fresh beet horseradish.
Growing up in an Italian family, we learned to show our love by feeding people. “Here, have another bite” meant I like you. Just filling up an unsuspecting person plate with baked ziti and meatballs meant I really like you, or my favorite is when you have tin pans overflowing with food to go home with meant real love! My Grandmother had an open door policy at her home and always had food on the stove to welcome whoever stopped by. The smell could pull you in from miles away. I don’t remember her anywhere else in her house besides the kitchen, over a large metal sauce pot stirring tomato sauce – yelling at my father to stop eating out of the pot.
I was the lucky one to get my Grandma’s recipe book. It’s a bright yellow photo album with index cards in her writing, falling apart at the seams. It’s truly a piece of history. When I first tried to dive into making one of her legendary meals, I decided to start with one of my childhood favorites, Easter Pie (or Pizza Rustica as she called it). I was confused at first glance. 5lb of flour, 2 dozen eggs . . who and what was she feeding! As I read down further, the recipe called for a handful of cut prosciutto and the light ham from down the block, 2 baskets of cheese, and a big ball of mozz. To her this was her way of doing one of two things; one: the recipe cards were a quick reminder to her because she made each recipe every year or two: making sure no could every duplicate one of her delicious treats.
After years of taste testing and family gathering, I think we have it pretty close. Nonna’s recipe for Easter Pie!
For the Dough
6 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pound chilled salted butter, cut into large pieces
5 large eggs, beaten
For the Filling
1 lb prosciutto, in 1/4-inch dice
1 lb boiled ham, in 1/4-inch dice
1 lb boiled ham, in 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces pepperoni, in 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces soppressata, in 1/4-inch dice
1 lb mozzarella, in 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces provolone, in 1/4-inch dice
2 pounds ricotta
8 ounces grated pecorino Romano
10 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pepper
1 large egg, beaten, for brushing crust
For the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together 6 cups flour and the salt. Using a pastry cutter, large fork, or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add eggs and knead for 1 minute. Add about 1 1/4 cups ice water, a little at a time, to form a cohesive dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it forms a large smooth ball, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Let set aside for 30 minutes.
For the filling: Mix the meats, cheeses, the 10 eggs and pepper in a large bowl.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Divide the dough into two pieces: two-thirds for the bottom crust and one-third for the top. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger portion of the dough into a rectangle to line the bottom and sides of a 10 x 15 glass baking dish. Add the filling and smooth it lightly. Brush the edges with a little water. This will act like glue.
Roll out the remaining dough to cover the top of the dish with some overhang. I like to cut a little carrot on the top of the dough while its on the counter, you can just use a fork and poke some holes. Trim off excess dough and crimp the edges to seal. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush top and edges with the beaten egg, then return to the oven until golden brown, another 45 minutes. Let pie cool completely before serving.
Each year, my family celebrates Easter the only way a bunch of Italians know how — eating! There’s nothing better than getting together with aunts, uncles and cousins on Easter Sunday to have brunch and enjoy each other’s company. In a big Italian family, there’s never any shortage of food and brunch is a very loose term – the menu can range from bagels and pastry baskets with frittatas and quiches to spaghetti and meatballs with the biggest antipasto platter you’ll ever see. Any of these options are fine with me! Luckily for me, my cousin has her own catering business (who’s also a ‘Chopped’ Champion!!) and can put together a buffet table like it’s nobody’s business! Her key to success is taking advantage of the space you have with height – risers are the key! She also loves to use unexpected vessels, like in the photo below, she’ll core a loaf of sourdough bread for assorted dips with colorful veggies on the side!