Add freshness to your Passover with The Chef’s Garden, Pt. 2

At the beginning of Passover, we learned about how The Chef’s Garden could be a wonderful part of your Seder table HERE. My grandmother used to cry as the week wore on, because she said that the food was “so boring”. But with crisp, exotic veggies and condiments being able to be sent to your doorstep — just like the world’s finest chefs enjoy — I know she would have appreciated The Chef’s Garden during the holiday. My grandfather was of the firm opinion that at every dinner, one should have at least one raw vegetable and one cooked vegetable.

Here are some fresh ideas to use and accompany your matzo for the rest of Passover.

When it comes to salads, sometimes, it can be hard to think outside the box, outside of what you’ve eaten in restaurants or prepared at home. I’m very attached to the 1934 cookbook, The Edgewater Beach Hotel Salad Book for many reasons. I was born a mile away from this no longer existent resort-style hotel on Lake Michigan in Chicago. My grandmother and dad lived a block away. The book has really thousands of salad ideas, with exacting directions as to plating and presentation, composition and dressings.

Apropos to Passover, the book asserts, “The Israelites were ready to return to slavery and brick-making for the love of onions.” Numbers Ch. 11 v. 5: “We remember . . . the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic; but now our soul is dried away.” There are a lot of other other quotes in the book extolling onions and I’m convinced. I added some thinly sliced onions to one of Farmer Lee Jones’ favorite lettuces, the red-leafed, speckled variety, along with his fruity colored radishes, complete with greens! On it, a few slices of the “Queen of Cheeses,” Stilton, with a sprinkle of walnut oil, salt and pepper. If you’re gonna eat matzo, you’ll feel better having a lot of fresh salad!

Everybody has their own way of making matzo ball (“Kneidelach”) soup! I learned from one of my grandmothers, born in 1896, with some of my own ideas. Some years, I do use that modern trick of seltzer water to cook them and one time, I used chicken schmaltz. The problem is, though they end up tasty, they often fall apart before showtime.

Now, my grandmother was big on not adding too many carrots — “Too sweet!” she chided herself the year I was watching. I like carrots and carrot flavor, but I don’t like mushy veggies. I made the broth from scratch with a couple of heritage chickens from D’Artagnan, which are stronger in flavor and need some sweetness to balance. I also saved in the freezer from a previous The Chef’s Garden order lots of celery root peelings, as well as pulp left over from juicing. The Chef’s Garden advises to dehydrate such pulp, but it hasn’t worked out for me three times — so, in the zippy freezer bag it goes!

I strain and strain the soup into a richer broth and here is my innovation: I sliced the multi-colored carrots razor thin — like they did the prison garlic in Goodfellas — and let them poach in hot, hot soup as I’m plating it. Then, garnish with fragrant flowering herbs from The Chef’s Garden!

Passover is a holiday where you can’t have a bagel and a schmear! But with The Chef’s Garden Root Vegetable Slices and some matzo, you can make yourself a fiber-rich alternative. The slices are thin, with a salty/pickled aspect. You sautee’ them in apoon of oil, first. I added whipped cream cheese — which is easier to deal with delicate matzos — as well as thinly sliced red onions, capers and some of The Chef’s Garden famous lettuce.

The Chef’s Garden makes a number of jams and marmalades from their own and local produce. These are sophisticated flavors that with a piece of matzo and a cup of their tea, makes a terrific snack during Passover or anytime. My grandparents kept Tam Tam matzo crackers in the house year round.

Sweet Pepper Marmalade is one of the results of a collab with Ohio’s Prospect Jam Co. to reduce food waste. They describe it as “a colorful confetti of sweet peppers. I also experienced notes of fresh tomato leaf, dessert wine, cinnamon, white pepper, white grape. It’s fabulous on hot cheese desserts! Perhaps try it on Parmesan crisps for appetizers.

Champagne and Viola Jelly has mild sugar and champagne notes. Then, the richer floral and wine aspects come out. There’s some texture with flower pieces; it’s a thinner jelly. You could cook with it as a glaze!

The Strawberry Jam is unlike any you’ve ever experienced, even the fancy European brands. It’s deep, dark and intense. Other strawberry jams come off like truck-stop ketchup next to the long-simmered gourmet spaghetti sauce. Does that make sense? I bet clever candy makers could find a way to enrobe it. One of my favorite books that I’ve had since I was a starving student is Arthur Schwartz’ “What to Cook: When You Think There’s Nothing in the House to Eat”. He wrote that his widowed mother would curl up with black coffee served in china cups, along with a little plate of crackers and strawberry jam for dinner. There are some nights when that is perfection!

The Chef’s Garden offers a bunch of teas now, incorporating the edible flowers they grow. I tried Flowerhouse Black Tea Malvaceae. It has cranberry hibiscus, roselle hibiscus, cocoa nib, beet, vanilla, organic regal Earl Grey tea. I brew it for 5 minutes. It has fruit notes, but isn’t “fruity”. It’s black tea, but the notes bridge between tea and cocoa. I like tea some mornings, also as my second caffeinated beverage of the day and after work, as a lift to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Did you know — DID YOU KNOW — that the first pizza was made during Passover by Jewish Roman soldiers with matzo, olive oil and cheese? I have known this for a long time and I make my “Second Night” creations. I rhyme the two, calling them “matzo pizzos”. Here’s where you can use The Chef’s Garden Italian Signature Blend of micro herbs. This is what they say about them: “Add an extra punch of nutrition with these tasty herbs. This blend may contain micro chives and parsley, petite basil, fennel, Greek oregano, and thyme.” Add some dabs of their Tomato Marmalade, which is rich with tomato-lemon-spice flavors, sweet but not too sweet. It’s bright, not ketchupy. Run your matzo pizzo under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

During Passover and the other important holidays, my palate wants ancient Mediterranean flavors. This year, I winged a spinach-arugula lasagna, kind of a cross between a spinach lasagna and Greek spanokopita. So, in an oiled baking dish, I layered matzo, a kind of mornay sauce — white sauce with cheese and beaten eggs — and chopped spinach+arugula that was seasoned. So, here’s the deal: I shopped at a European food boutique where the feta (which I had my heart set on) was super expensive. Everything’s super expensive these days! So, do as I did: use cheaper farmer’s cheese or ricotta and season it with a little lemon zest, a good hit of salt, white pepper and a little blade mace or ground nutmeg, along with some grated other kind of white cheese, like mozzarella and/or Parmesan. Layer about 3 layers of set of ingredients, bake about 300 for a half hour. Let rest for a bit. It is so good! You won’t believe it. It’s maybe hard to plate, but one fork later, who cares?

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