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Showing posts with label easter eggs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label easter eggs. Show all posts

Monday, April 22, 2019

Brisket for Two - a Nod to Passover

Presented with apologies to all of my ancestors that survived Lithuania just long enough to pass this on
this important culture to some idiotic child like me. 
I'm easily the worst possible source for how to host a Passover Seder, but I had a little feast anyway. Genetically, I'm 50% Ashkenazi Jewish and 50% Indigenous Pinoy/Tagalog...so dang, do I know how to deep-fry some good stuff, and that's about the beginning and end of what those two cuisines have in common. I like to celebrate all holidays that I'm able to, even if I can't have any bread, cookies, scones or muffins for the next week. (Not 'can't,' won't is more like it. 100% choice.) While I realized I didn't actually have a proper seder plate, I still wanted to celebrate the first night of Passover with my husband. So we did something completely casual for the two of us!

I've had a few Passover Seders here and there, so let's just get down to it: The Passover Seder is a very special one that involves story telling around the table. Every piece of what the table has on it means something. It's a ritualistic meal and a very important one at that. This blog is merely to show you what I did and I don't want anyone to get offended (not that I could see how) but we did want to celebrate the freedom of the Hebrews.

Motivation time:

If you ever feel insignificant: 10,000 years of civilization with every single aspect of nature (that wants you dead, by the way) fighting against you, as well as other peoples fighting against you, you've made it. You were the one that made it through the infinitely small chances of coming into existence. Every single life is unbelievably unlikely, and you are the one that's here, reading this now. After everything the last 10,000 years has thrown at the human civilization, you made it. I don't know if that's by chance or not, but the blood and souls of your ancestors were fighting hard for you to be here. Some of mine got lost in a desert for 40 years, but dammit they made it. Just so one of their descendants can screw up a Passover Seder. I hope they at least developed a sense of humor over all those millenia.

We'll get to the meal in a minute, but before all that I want to at least touch on what goes on your traditional Seder plate. I'd like to point out that nothing on this particular plate is eaten, just put up for the ritual and for the story you tell as you sit down for the meal. This story is a very important one to tell, and quite important to the actual ritual of eating.

What goes on the Seder Plate

  • Zeroa (shank bone)
    • Usually a lamb shank bone, it represents the sacrifice offered up from the Hebrews on the eve of their exodus from Egypt
  • Beitzah(hard-boiled egg)
    • This represents a sort of "new beginnings", a universal Springtime symbol! It's not eaten from the seder plate, but lots of folks serve an appetizer of chopped egg salad or deviled eggs before the meal.
  • Charoset(yummy)
    • This 'paste' is actually delicious! It's a mash of apples, pears, dates, walnuts, honey, and a dash or two of kosher wine. Do yourself a favor and set some aside for yourself for the dinner table. If there's any leftover, spread it on matzoh the morning after for a treat!
  • Maror (bitter herb)
    • Usually horseradish or romaine lettuce, it represents the bitterness of slavery
  • Karpas (spring vegetable)
    • Most folks use parsley, which is bitter, but also alive and springy, served next to salt water to represent the tears cried by the slaves.
Now that that's all out of the way, we can get on to what you can actually serve for a Passover Seder. Roast chicken is a fairly traditional staple, and so is brisket. So long as it's not mixing milk and meat, and the meat is kosher, go nuts! It's all entirely up to the host's preferences. This hostess did...

Favorite Easy Brisket for Two
  • 2.5 lb brisket (it's what they had at the butcher)
  • Ground spice mix
    • 3 Tbsp kosher salt
    • 2 tsp coffee grounds
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • 1/2 tsp whole coriander
    • 1/4 tsp whole cumin
    • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne
    • 5 or 6 allspice berries
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, cut into wedges and salted
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • Boiled potatoes 
  • Garden Herbs
  • Hard-boiled Eggs (dyed because Easter was yesterday)
Grind your spices in a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder if you have it), putting the salt in the bottom first, then the cumin and coriander, then the rest of everything else. Grind it to be course yet so everything's all about the same size. You'll just love the aroma! Mix it with a few drops of a neutral oil (grapseed or canola will do) and rub it all over your brisket. Re-wrap it and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes, but of course the longer you let it sit, the better. 

The moment I get home from the butcher, I like to salt and pepper my meat and rewrap it in the paper. I think this lets the salt do its magic a little easier, and it just gets things going. Prepare the vegetables by washing and chopping them simply. The best part about meals like this is that you can start it in the middle of the afternoon, forget about it and go on about your day, and then come back to a delicious meal. I suggest 2+ hours of cooking time, so please plan accordingly. 

To prepare a brisket, first preheat your oven to 400 degrees and break out your favorite casserole pot. I have this incredible old pot that my great-grandmother used. I have no idea where it came from, I just know that it's been in my family for generations and that it's the best damn pot I've ever had. Pick something that'll go both on the stovetop and the oven without cracking or blinking an eye (so to speak). Pots like these are investments, and I highly suggest you get one!

Set your casserole pot on a high flame and add a small glug of canola oil to the bottom. Let heat and give it a gentle swirl. Unwrap that brisket that's been pre-seasoned, and place it - fat cap side down - into the pot. Turn the flame down to medium-high and turn on your vent. It might help to open a window lest your home kitchen is like mine without a commercial vent. You're going to let it sear for at least 3 minutes before you turn over and let it sear on the other side for another 2 minutes. Remove from the pot and set on a plate. Turn that heat back up to high.

Terrible picture, but you get the idea.
Dump in all of your vegetables that you've chopped and cook for 2 minutes. Stir, scraping the bottom, and then cover and reduce the flame to medium. Let cook for another 2 minutes, open the top and scrape up all the goodies. Arrange the veggies so they are an even surface to put your  meat back onto. Let your meat rest atop the veg, fat cap side up, and cover. Let cook on the stove for about 10 minutes before putting in the hot oven. When you do put it in the oven, decide then if you'd like to introduce any herbs from your garden. A big bunch of parsley might be nice, or some dill. Either way, pop that covered pot into that oven.

Cook for 45 minutes, then turn the heat down to 325 and cook for another 90 minutes (or an hour and a half). You can take this time to take a shower, go for a walk, read a magazine, or do any other errand around the house. You can also prepare some yummy sides! Here's my favorite easy way to do red-skinned potatoes:

Take large red-skinned potatoes and pop them all in a tall stock pot (mine is about 4 qt). Fill the pot with water so that the potatoes are completely submerged and add a little more than a half a cup of kosher salt (I'm seriously not kidding) into the water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.Cook until soft, then let sit for at least 15 minutes. Drain this salty water and let the potatoes air-dry on a paper towel. They're going to form a beautiful salty crust, so don't be alarmed. Now, they're soft and ready to be fried in butter or oil! Simply smash them or cut them in rough cubes, then cook on a medium-high heat to brown! The result is like a french fry only without all the work. You can also add in chopped herbs, sliced asparagus...whatever you like! I took some asparagus from my garden and mixed it in with these glorious potatoes to serve as my side-dish.

The picture is only blurry because it's steamy!

To make the perfect hard-boiled egg, begin with cold water, completely covering the eggs in the pot. Bring your pot to a boil, turn the heat off, and cover. Set the timer for 15 minutes, then drain and pour ice straight atop the eggs. This will make peeling a much easier feat in the future, believe you me!

I did have a little more than some fun dyeing these eggs. Simple technique! Dye a base coat in the normal method, but leave it a little pale. Then make a layered solution of white vinegar and canola oil. Drop a few drops of dye into the oil, and quickly drop in the egg. Swirl it around a bit and then let drip on a tray lined with a cooling rack The effect will be a beautiful marbled one. If you're feeling fancy, dust on some luster dust with a paintbrush while still damp. Gorgeous!

Your brisket should be done about now. Remove from the oven and let hang out on the stovetop for about 15 minutes. You're letting everything rest and making it easier for yourself to slice. I suggest thin slices, crosswise from the grain. Serve with your potatoes, herbs, eggs, and more!

Thanks so much for joining me on this post. I'm loving my new work schedule and I hope you guys love it, too.  Chag sameach! (That's yiddish for happy holidays)

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram if you aren't already doing so. Just yesterday I've had a minor panic about what to do with a traditional passover breakfast of Matzoh-brei.  Enjoy a photo of it here!

 Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

I've been wanting to post for awhile, now, but I haven't a clue as to what to post about. I suppose that it couldn't count as writer's block, if it's something like this. It's not that I have something to say, but can't; it's just that I don't have much to say.

Work has been great. The dessert buffet for Easter turned out great. I didn't do the fruit carving sculpture that I wanted to, mostly because I just lost motivation. I wanted to concentrate on getting the chocolate fountain to the perfect fluidity...which I did! Here's a picture of my buffet.

The chocolate fountain stayed that gorgeous fluid shape the entire day, which went from 9 am until 4 pm, and that was something that I was extremely proud of. Pictured closest to the camera would be my Brioche bread pudding, which was scented with vanilla bean and cinnamon, and baked with dried apricots. I've been taking lots of pictures of my bread pudding process, which will come in a later post! I'll probably finish it on Tuesday, only because I want a picture of an actual slice of the stuff with the creme anglaise all draped over it, like a lovely blanket of custard and warmth. Look forward to that!

I didn't really have that big of an Easter this year. Usually, I'll spend Easter Sunday with my family, and my dad will have our egg hunting competition. This is where my father(a 40-something white man that wears Ralph Lauren Polo) and I (his Asian 20-something muscular daughter) go around my grandmother's house with pastel Easter baskets trying to find the most eggs. It's hilarious, I'm sure, to the outsider, but we take it very seriously. The only reason we stopped doing it was because it was making my little cousins cry that they could only find 1 egg each and we both had our baskets full.

After the egg hunt, we would make deviled eggs and eat honey-glazed ham with potatoes. I wish I could have been back in Tucson to show off my pretty dyed eggs, done naturally! If you want to do these next year, check out my tutorial here!

I still can't get over how blue the eggs turned using just a few red cabbage leaves...

Anyway, happy Easter to all who celebrate it!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ouefs au Naturale (Naturally-Dyed Easter/Ostara Eggs!)

Dyed using red cabbage and carrot tops/tumeric

Happy Spring!!!

There are so many wonderful things about spring, and dying Ostara eggs is one of my absolute favorites. I am not shy about my religion, being a Wiccan woman and proud of it is honestly one of the favorite things about myself. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I'm happy to be a Wiccan. I am happy to call myself Witch. While Wicca itself is a modernization of old Pagan values and practices, I still see it as an ancient and beautiful religion with so many fun ways to practice it in the modern day. Ostara is my favorite Sabbat, and dyeing eggs is my favorite activity, which I look forward to doing all year long. With so many creative ideas going all around Pinterest, it's easy to get caught up in all of it! Here's the thing about Pinterest, though: It's all insanity.

I've gone on quite a few Pinterest kicks in my day, and most of the pictures from my results have been burned since they were too fail-tastic to show anyone. But do you know what else is fail-tastic? Chemicals, and too much of them. We are becoming more and more aware of  the food we eat and the chemical crap that goes into it, and the body is a temple, so you must worship at it accordingly. Now, if you want your temple to be full of chemicals and GMOs and junk food, that is completely fine. It is your body. It is your temple. I honestly don't mind getting a little crap in my system. Being someone who struggled with body image and an eating disorder before(both first and second hand)I have learned to listen to my body. If my body wants some organic grapes, I feed her that. If my body wants Cheetoes and ranch dressing, I feed her that. That being said, I realize that I'm getting older, and that the world is changing...so I should learn to change and adapt with it. Why  not start with my favorite things for my favorite sabbat: the Ostara Egg.

 So here is a super-quick guide to dyeing Ostara eggs in a natural way!

A huge thanks to Radmegan.com for the awesome image and beautiful pictorial guide! Here's another, taken from WaldorfToday.com:

These recipes are done using what is known as the boiling method, which is my preferred method. You basically take your "dye" ingredients, whatever they may be, and combine them with water and a nice teaspoon of white vinegar, then boil the eggs in the liquid for 14 minutes and let set. Basically, just boil everything in the biggest pot you've got, then turn off the heat and cover. This will not only result in perfectly cooked eggs, but a beautiful bright hue. Here's the thing about this method: it takes forever for the color to set. The amounts of the dye ingredients are sort of whatever you like. Once it boils, you can add more color, if you like, and let it steep. Remember that the longer that you let it steep, the more brilliant the color will appear.

The one advantage to artificial dyes is that they are fast. Only a short 8 minutes and you have beautiful eggs, all brightly colored! For the best results on your natural dyes, it's honestly best to let them sit overnight in the liquid. There are disadvantages to this in the practical sense, especially if you have small children who just can't wait to see their beautiful creations, but your patience will be rewarded.

However! This does not mean you should be discouraged, especially because you have so much creative room. Did you know that you can "print" on your eggs using leaves and flowers that you find in  your garden? My garden isn't really  in bloom, yet, but this visual tutorial can be used as a guide.

This is a method that can be used with gauze, mesh, cheesecloth...but, honestly, I've found that a doubled-up coffee filter can work just as well in a pinch The red color seen here is from boiled beets. Instead of wasting beets, just peel the beets that you were going to roast or eat anyway and use that leftover peel in the water. Beets yield a gorgeous color, and stain everything they touch, so they're ideal. Plus, beets are tasty.

You can use red or golden beets for this application, both of which give lovely colors. Like I said, the longer you let it sit, the better. But please keep in mind that too  much vinegar will eventually soften your egg shell...which is both kinda cool and really gross. Exercise caution!

How can this kind of thing be applied to your modern Witch?

Simple! Take herbs and leaves that go with your own desires and wrap them in the eggs. Letting the eggs sit overnight will let the energies mature, penetrate your "seed" which will be an uber-powerful spell bomb in the morning!

Traditionally, this is the part where "hiding" the eggs come into play. You hide or bury these eggs in your garden or outside somewhere, with pictures of your wishes drawn on them, for the Fae to find. They take your wishes to the Goddess, and she grants it. Or something.

There are so many versions of this story and how hiding eggs came to be. I remember the stories that my own High Priestess would tell about how the eggs are seeds, and we hide them to plant them. We sow the seeds of our wishes, our desires, and nurture them throughout the seasons, which help them come to fruition. In my mind, this is all the more reason we should use natural dyes. After all, if you're going to end up planting your "seed" in the ground, in the garden, you may as well use natural stuff.

The most-beautiful natural egg dye job is this beauty, which is made from onion skins and flowers. I can just imagine the wonderful scavenger hunt you'll go on trying to find these flowers, can't you? They just look terrific. You can find the full visual tutorial here.

Like I said, there are advantages and troubles to dyeing eggs in the natural way.

Advantage: no extra chemicals in something you'll probably use for devilled eggs, if you don't intend to plant them or use them for a ritual.

Disadvantage: They take for-freaking-ever.

Advantage: They're gorgeous and fun!

Disadvantage: The ingredients for certain dyes (blueberries, beets,  turmeric, saffron, wine, etc) can get crazy expensive, which is no good if you're on a budget. Seriously, do you know how much blueberries cost? Just to not eat?

Advantage: Kids can safely enjoy without any risk of chemical reactions, as can your more delicate friends.

Disadvantage: They take for-FREAKING-EVER.

Advantage: You'll have one more fun thing to put on your Pinterest!

Disadvantage: There's a really big chance that it won't turn out like the pictures, so you might be setting yourself up for disappointment, when you could have just bought dyes.

Speaking of buying dyes, you can purchase powdered dyes off the internet for such au naturale dye jobs...but what's the fun in that? Go ahead and try these out. You're a powerful being: do the thing.

Happy eating and Happy Ostara!

Oh, and this is what mine ended up looking like after sitting in its dye for a couple of days:

Cool, right?