Wine glasses, the last sips of red etching into their surfaces, are scattered about the apartment beside berry crusted flatware and a treasure hunt of pie crumbs. The candles, stubs in borrowed, beautiful, holders, mark the table, and our wedding china, mostly washed, will shortly return to the rarely visited confines of the breakfront. The holiday is over, although, happily, matzo balls tempt from tupperware; leftovers being the greatest reward for hosting.
My Jewish holidays are affairs of friendship, although after two decades the line between friendship and family lingers only as a blur. I remember childhood holidays, but my family has fallen away from the Hebrew traditions and it is amongst friends that I pull from the round challah and dip slices of apple into golden honey. This year, 5774, is especially important for me, because it is my first year as a Jewish G-dmother, and while my Go-dbaby, only 5 months old, won’t remember the brisket, I wanted to lay the foundation for happy holiday gatherings of love and schmaltz. And I believe I have.
I thought I had the timing down pat (a feat I have yet to master– my husband says he knows there’s going to be home cooking when he hears sailor-swearing from the kitchen): chicken soup made a day in advance, vegetables roasted, brisket in oven, sweet potatoes mashed, but then, feeling confident, I undertook another task. The kasha varnishkes kept me in the kitchen longer then expected, and my guests, punctual(!), issued in as I fried onions and waited for the kasha (buckwheat for the non-Jews) to “speak” to me in the pan. Ah, well, timing isn’t everything.
Here’s what worked and what didn’t:
- Smokey eggplant dip– a hit with pita chips
- Traditional opener: round challah (round for the new year & cycle of life), apples and honey
- Matzo balls in homemade chicken soup- always a favorite (I make the matzo balls from the Manischewitz mix after years of disappointing fancy matzo balls, these basic ones are always a perfect crowd pleaser.)
- Brisket with onions and carrots (Jewish Home Cooking)- The men seemed to enjoy this, although I have yet to fall in love with a brisket, that said, Irish-Catholic Jimmy took home a doggie bag of the leftovers, so at least it works across cultures.
- Roasted carrots, parsnips, and beets- The carrots & parsnips were a bit too peppery; I think next time I’ll just do the basics (olive oil, S&P), but the beets
(peeled and wrapped in aluminum foil) were perfect.
- Kasha varnishkes (Jewish Home Cooking)- This sparked memories of childhood for my Jewish friends, so was well worth it, although I made WAY too much (now I’ll have to troll the internet for ideas to spice up the leftovers).
- Ginger, macadamia nut mashed sweet potatoes– huge hit although a few of the plainer palates would have preferred less cayenne.
- Zucchini parmesan crisps– courtesy of my friend Jen
- Dessert was an assortment of bakery supplied sweets, but the biggest hit was Alli’s co-worker’s salted caramel brownies (this baker turned published has a deft hand!). I made a cream cheese dough for homemade ruggelach and then ran out of time. I guess I’ll be rolling out cookies later this week.
All in all, I’m grateful to be able to share this special day with my loved ones. L’shana tovah!