Setting the Table

The Seder is a meal of ritual.  While there can be some playing around with the menu, sacrosanct are the serving of matzo ball soup and the absence of flour in any recipe.

Never a fan of the matzo ball, I handed off this part of the meal for many years to a friend’s mother, who was delighted to bring her specialty to the table. Sadly, Sibi died and with her went the BEST matzo ball soup in the world, this according to my family. Sibi’s replacement soup provider arrives with two pots still bubbling from her stove, as well as her own ladle. Such preparedness is my own little prayer answered.

Baking a flourless dessert is, thankfully, not the hassle of years ago.

This recipe from Country Living magazine is my go-to. It’s a cake so delicious as to deserve an appearance more than once a year.

Chocolate-Almond Torte

Special equipment – a spring form cake pan

2 sticks unsalted butter cut into small pieces

9 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped

6 large eggs, separated

2/3 cup superfine sugar

½ cup fined ground almonds

· Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10” spring form cake pan.

· In a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir until smooth. Set bowl aside to cool.

· In another bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually pour melted chocolate mixture into egg mixture, stirring constantly. Now, fold in the almonds. Set bowl aside.

· In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until just combined.

· Pour this mixture into the spring form pan and bake for 35 minutes. (torte will be very moist in the middle).

· Cool in the pan about 1 hour. Then undo spring form. Now you have the torte on the pan bottom. Slide a spatula (or long piece of dental floss) to loosen the torte from the bottom. Then use the spatula to push/slide the torte onto a serving plate.

In a corner of the dining room is the dessert table. The torte offers a wonderful landscape for a plop of whipped cream with a sprinkle of blackberries and raspberries.


Passover co living www

For those who believe fruit is dessert – a peach compote with a side of macaroon. Fresh mint is a pretty topper for both desserts.

With the meal in hand, I can revel in setting the table with an heirloom embroidered cloth, not of my own inheritance, but of a purchase at a second hand store. Cast off by one family, it is a part of my family’s holiday table.

table cloth closeup www (Small)

Such beauty reminds me of the importance of remembering those who once graced our tables at holidays and how filling their seats with new families and friends is a testament to their memories…like a good matzo ball, gone but never forgotten.

Whether searching for the Passover matzo or a golden Easter egg, may this year’s holiday be beautifully blessed.

xx EllynAnne

Hide & Seek at Passover and Easter

This week-end celebrates Passover and Easter, which is especially exciting news for the egg industry. Poultry farmers are ringing up sales as the hard boiled egg is featured within both holidays.

For Passover, the egg is a symbolic food, as well as a key ingredient to a flour-less torte dessert.
Passover choco torte www
For Easter, the egg provides one of childhood’s happiest experiences:
vintage mag_easter egg cover 1948 www (Medium)
Growing up in the South and the only Jewish family in the neighborhood, our parents allowed my siblings and I might participate in the fun of Easter through dyeing eggs and holding our own egg hunts in the backyard.

With our little record player on hand, we sang along to the one Easter song permitted, as we colored dozens of eggs.
Peter Cottontail record easter version www (Small)
When our friends returned from church and sat down to their Sunday dinner, my brothers and I were playing Peter Cottontail to our three little sisters, hiding the eggs over and over and over in the tall grass of the backyard.
Bunny pic 1930 www (Small)
I have wonderful memories of those days and wanted that same fun for my own little boys.

As one of a handful of Jewish families in our town, my husband and I did as my parents had done and sanctioned the egg hunt. To every hunt advertised, our boys were there, running about with their little baskets, gathering eggs and candies and having the most fun.

It’s been decades since those days, and with children no longer about, so has there been no egg coloring nor hiding nor hunting.

As I was setting the Passover table last night, and placing the ceremonial hard boiled egg into its spot on the Seder plate, I suddenly thought about a particular someone and whether her Easter might use a bit of whimsy and surprise.
table cloth closeup www (Small)

So today, I purchased a bag of jelly beans, filling a vintage egg holder to overflowing.  Adorable, yes, but missing something…

Chick egg holder with jelly beans www
                                  Ta Dah!
Chick egg holder with jelly beans choco rabbit www (Small)

Holidays like Passover and Easter are so very rich in tradition. Whether matzo ball soup or a baked ham, hiding the matzo or hunting colorful eggs, what’s important is as we celebrate, not a seat at the table is empty.

Chocolate Almond Torte – recipe from Country Living magazine
Passover co living www
2 sticks plus 2 T                     1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter
unsalted butter cut                       a 10-inch springform cake pan.
into small pieces

9  oz good quality                   2. In a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering
chocolate, chopped                    water, melt butter and chocolate together.
                                                  Stir until combined. Set aside to cool.

6 lg eggs, separated                3. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with
2/3 cup superfine                        sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually pour
sugar                                          melted chocolate into egg mixture, stirring
                                                  constantly. Fold in almonds. Set aside.

1/2 cup almonds,                   4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set
finely chopped                           on medium high speed, beat egg whites
                                                 until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into
                                                 prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes.

Torte will be very moist in the middle. Transfer torte to a wire rack and
cool completely in the pan, about 1 hour.  Serves 10-12. Nicely topped
with whipped cream and fresh berries.

Tie One On…an apron, of course!