Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Marriage Of Easter And Passover

Without Passover , there would be no Easter. Both holidays and holy days are linked , along with having much in common, Both are rich in symbolic foods that define them. There are savory and sweet , recipes that go back centuries and even millennia.

Famed chef and food writer, Yotam Ottolenghi, wrote about these entwined holidays in today's New York Times Food section.The similarities of the two Spring holidays struck him a couple of years ago when he and his then two year old son, Max, went on their first Easter egg hunt in London. The feeling of triumph of finding a chocolate egg was not unlike that of finding the afikoman - the piece of matzoh that is hidden during a seder and found by the children attending the dinner. He then saw similar symbolism with certain dishes. The English bake a simmel cake - a fragrant spice-laden fruit cake that always has twelve marzipan balls on it to represent Jesus and the eleven apostles -  not twelve because Judas is omitted. Chef. Ottolenghi compares the cake's fruit drenched crumb to his nonna's haroseth,, another symbol rich food. The paste, meant to symbolize the mortar the Jews used to build the pyramids also has dried fruit and dusted with spice, namely cinnamon. Both Jews and Christians also make lamb which signifies  Abraham's sacrificing his son and Christ sacrificing His Life.

The holidays can be entwined and Chef Ottolenghi writes of braiding the two together. He offers two recipes, One is truly Neopolitan, a casatiello, and would be better after Passover. This bread is a great way of using the leftovers from the Easter meal and is brought on many an Easter Monday picnic all over Southern Italy.It combines salami, Gruyere and parmesan cheeses baked together with hard boiled eggs.(you can use your Easter eggs for this). All of this is neatly contained in a hearty bread.The bread dough is rolled out and then the cubed salami and cheeses along with a paste made of parsley and basil are spread out on it. The bread is then rolled and baked in a tubed pan. You don't even need a picnic for it. It's just a nice Spring dinner or Sunday brunch. The second recipe is one for Passover (although it, too, can be made at any time of the year) This  is a flourless walnut cake with the walnuts being ground into a flour. They do require what Chef Ottolenghi call a pre-emptive drenching which can be in  floral or citrus sugar syrup for some kind of moisture. His favorite is a nutty liqueur such as amaretto to give the cake kick.It's decorated with freshly whipped cream and caramelized salted walnuts.

Passover and Easter  have been and will always be entwined. Their foods too, for all their differences will be that way too. Both can be made and used in observing the coming of Spring and new life.

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