Passover is coming...
You know how when you live your life, you notice little things, mean to get back to them, and almost never do? After years of saying that I would polish the silverware, right before every Thanksgiving, when there was no time in the world to possibly do that with all the cooking and preparing and whatever, well, I finally polished the silverware. Five months after Thanksgiving, but just in time for Passover 2017. I inherited my mother's silver plated silverware, which I love. It reminds me of her, every time I use it. And my mother did have good taste. There is something about the swirl at the end of the utensil that is particularly simple, but lovely. Unfortunately over the years, somehow, a lot of the soup spoons and large forks (as opposed to dessert forks) have gone missing. Probably slipped into the garbage pail as someone cleaned a plate. Because of the lost cutlery, on big holidays we use another set from my mom, but stainless steel, with a sort of art deco vibe.
I googled how to clean silverware on the big net in the sky, and learned to line a tray with silver foil. I would then spoon into the tray, two tablespoons of baking soda, two table spoons of sea salt, line a bunch of silverware on top of that into the tray, add boiling water, and then ½ cup of white vinegar. Kaboom! Just like the make your own volcano experiments we did with our son when he was in grade school. The theory is that you let the silverware, which is not overlapped, but separated, sit in that mix for a few minutes and the tarnish will adhere to the silver foil, and your silver will sparkle. Well, not so, my friend. But it is a good first step before actually polishing said silver with silver polish. After the volcanic bath, it seems that less elbow grease need be applied, and the silver polishes pretty quickly and nicely.
They say variety is the spice of life. But what happens to the spices in your life that have accrued over say, the last five years?
So, yesterday I finally vacuumed and mopped the garden floor where the kitchen is located, and I steam cleaned the kitchen tile floor. The grout leaves something to be desired, like a good cleaning with some mex (totally toxic), but that could wait for another day. Steam cleaners for tile floor are so satisfying to use, as the before and after are like night and day. I have a cleaning schedule, and reminders pop up daily on my calendar, but it is so easy to blow off the tasks and let another week go by. I am still trying to decide if it is better to do one or two tasks a day, or do it all on one big cleaning day.
I felt so good when I was done. But then I noticed the spice racks that had been accumulating dust since they day they came home with me. Also, dare I confess this, some of the spices dated back to 2011 and earlier. I could tell how old they were, as I had transferred the labels from the food coop spice baggies onto the glass spice containers, and the labels had the dates.
I recall reading an article by Deborah Madison, in which she said that she replaced all her old spices at the turn of the New Year. Picking the New Year was an easy way to remember to purge the old spices and start anew. I must admit that having spices that date back a number of years, never made me feel good when using them in a dish using all fresh and organic ingredients. Sometimes it felt like I was adding something that could cause food poisoning into the mix. It was so obvious that both color and scent were missing from the older spices.
So, even though it was close to midnight, I started dumping the spices in the spice racks by my stove, which were the most used ones. I put the old jars into a soapy hot water bath, so the labels would slide off and I could reuse the spice jars with fresh and newly purchased spices.
This morning I woke up and started in on the spices in a cabinet containing the lesser used ones. Low and behold, one jar I found was a jar of Spice Islands brand Poppy Seeds. Now I know that I have not purchased Spice Islands brand spices for a long long time. In the past, I knew I could find them in one local little grocery store. I loved their labels, and how neat spices looked together when they were all of one brand. I imagine I bought them with the idea of some muffin or cake recipe using poppy seeds, which I then never made. I remember the Silver Palate Cook Book, and the popularity of their recipe for a poppy seed cake. Never owned the cook book, never made the cake, though in that era of time, people talked and talked about that cake. Time to toss these poppy seeds into recycling and start a new year for Passover.
Charoset and Passover
This year, we will be having a small dinner at our house for Passover on Sunday evening. When I told some friends about this recently, I was surprised to find that many people do not celebrate Passover on the first night of Passover, because the dates of the holiday do not work out for the family being able to get together. This year, the first night of Passover falls on a Monday, which makes celebrating the holiday difficult for working folks. Thus, many people will come together to celebrate over the weekend, accommodating the holiday to the reality of their lives, but getting to participate, nonetheless.
My son, a professional chef, will be making most of the meal, but I have been assigned to make the Charoset, and host in the garden floor kitchen of my house, as I have the most space for hosting. I found a Sephardic Version of Charoset, which I will be making. Sephardic Jews are the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East and their descendants. Dreaming of these far off lands, Sephardic food seems more exotic than the traditional.
This Sephardic version of Charoset combines plump dates with creamy bananas, allspice, ginger, cloves, and other spices. The fruits in this dish connect the Passover seder, which, among other things, signifies a spring festival of rebirth. It will be good to make this recipe with fresh spices.
Wishing you a Happy Passover, and for those of you celebrating Easter, wishing you a Happy Easter, too. Enjoy!
Sephardic Charoset for Passover
- 20 pitted dates preferably Medjool
- 1 ripe banana
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ½ cup pomegranate juice
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- ½ cup walnut halves toasted
- ½ cup unsalted shelled pistachio nuts not dyed red, toasted
- ½ cup whole almonds toasted
- 1-½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
In a food processor, puree dates until smooth. Add banana, raisins, pomegranate juice, and honey, and process to combine.
Add walnuts, pistachios, almonds, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves and press until smooth ( I actually like my choroset a bit chunky, so not too smooth). Store covered, at room temperature until ready to serve.
Try this recipe and also experiment, add an apple and lemon juice and zest next time, and Enjoy!