The Comfort of Tradition As We Celebrate Passover
by Georgette Farkas, Culinary Ambassador
Holiday meals come seasoned with longstanding traditions, particularly in families with deep attachments to their food culture. This is certainly the case for the Great Performances catering family. Founder Liz Neumark shepherds our Passover menu through tasting and testing and the filter of her own family rituals. While Liz is forever inspiring us to innovate, we learned this season that there are meaningful exceptions and recipes simply not to be altered.
When it comes to holiday classics such as gefilte fish, charoset and matzoh ball soup, powerful taste memories are to be respected as we celebrate Passover. How about gefilte fish made with coarsely chopped sea bass and fresh lemon zest? Nope, we’re sticking to the old-world version. It’s perch or pike finely ground with just the right amount of matzoh meal and plenty of zesty beet pickled horseradish served on the side. For the charoset, how about Granny Smiths and Honey Crisps cubed with the skin on and tossed with lemon for the bright texture and color? Uh-uh. The charoset will be as it has always been, a peeled and finely minced paste of apple and crushed walnuts. As for the soup, Chef Dana’s deeply flavorful broth and light and airy matzoh balls have passed the test. For these dishes, the recipe is the recipe because it corresponds to the reassuring taste memories passed from one generation to the next, and now to our chefs.
Tradition aside, of course Liz leaves plenty of room for us to add our own personal touches to the menu. We’ve elevated the melt in your mouth brisket with a red wine and port reduction. There are a few hints of Mediterranean influenced Sephardic cooking on an otherwise Ashkenazi seasoned menu. Our vegetarian we roast our vegetarian cauliflower steaks with za’atar and top them with sautéed sweet yellow pepper, fennel, red onion, black olive and toasted pine nuts. We have a fresh take on Tzimmes: whole roasted tri-color carrots tossed in an orange glaze with currants and pistachios. Chef Justin prepares his spatchcock roast chickens with pomegranate glaze and pomegranate seeds. He covers his chocolate covered matzoh with pumpkin and hemp seeds, chili flake and sea salt. Finally, for the bright spot we are all yearning to see on the horizon, our pastry chef’s flourless bittersweet chocolate cakes are lightly dusted with just a hint of gold.
As a catering family, over the last year we’ve evolved from orchestrating world class galas to preparing meals for families to enjoy at home on an intimate scale. I’m grateful to my colleagues, Chef Dana and Chef Justin for bringing these menus to life with so much loving care, flavor and cooking that stands out yet still feel approachable and comforting at your family dinner table as you celebrate Passover. We take preparing your Passover dinner as a great responsibility. We hope we’ve respected your family’s taste memories and perhaps shared a few new ones.