Bread! And lots of it! I feel sufficiently breadified after this Shabbat, so we did something right.
Friday night, Josh made a great feast, in his words, “featuring both chametz and kitniyot.” There was pasta salad, tofu, broccoli, bread and butter, and a fascinating discussion about how it seems antithetical to our health-conscious personas to like butter, but really, we all love it. Beverly’s challah took on new dimensions with caramelized honey on the bottom. Josh also made shepherdess pie, an amazing layered dish of rice, corn, refried beans, and sweet potatoes. Ah, kitniyot.
(Sometimes I think it’s kitniyot – a strange category mostly consisting of legumes and not eaten by most Ashkenazi Jews during Passover – that I miss the most during the holiday. I had chana masala as soon as I possibly could last week, and the tofu and refried beans at dinner really hit the spot. I could write several blog posts just about the issue of eating or not eating kitniyot on Passover, but it only gets people upset, and we have another year before we need to have this debate again in earnest.)
So yeah, dinner was awesome, and especially after the night I had cooking on Thursday, it was a relief not to have to make anything for Friday.
Marc and I hosted Tikvah lunch on Saturday, and we tried to think of the most perfect post-Passover menu we could. That turned out to be a sandwich bar. The added advantage, besides featuring 7 kinds of bread, was that it required very little in the way of preparation. Somehow, Thursday night, covered in pumpkin puree, sweating profusely, and surrounded by melted chocolate ice cream, I wondered if we’d misjudged the situation.
Because the whole “sandwich bar” idea seemed so simple, we decided to make spinach strawberry salad and a cold soup to go along with it, plus an exciting dessert of, what else, ice cream sandwiches. Sounds simple, right? Ha.
Ok, the soup turned out to be amazing. Though I started with a recipe that I quickly abandoned, and though at first it tasted like dirty water, the resulting soup that we served on Saturday was something I was truly proud of.
Pumpkin Apple Soup
(I made this for 30 people, so adjust quantities accordingly)
3 15 oz. cans of pumpkin puree
2-3 granny smith apples
1 large onion
butter and olive oil for sauteeing
parve chicken powder or some kind of salty, flavorful stock
about 6 cups of water (if you’re using the powder)
a whole bunch of some curry powder you like the taste of
salt and pepper
Saute the onion in butter and olive oil (or you could just choose one) until starting to brown. Add the peeled, chopped apple and cook until it starts to soften. Add the pumpkin, water, powdered soup, and curry. Bring to a boil and simmer as long as you can stand it, like 20 minutes or so. Don’t be discouraged when you taste it and want to cry because it tastes like nothing but you can’t possibly add any more curry. Add salt and pepper. Puree with an immersion blender if it’ll fit in the pot, or, if cooking for 30, transfer to a real blender, in hot, annoying batches, and puree until smooth. Refrigerate overnight, and wait for your own amazement that it actually tastes good in the morning. Serve chilled.
So that worked out. The ice cream sandwiches worked out, too, insomuch as we served them and they were cake and ice cream in one dessert. The process, though: oy. First, Marc made Mexican chocolate ice cream, a flavor that has quickly become a favorite. Maybe because we didn’t chill it enough, or maybe there was too much of it, but it didn’t turn into the right consistency in the ice cream maker and required freezing and stirring by hand for a few hours.
I wanted to make eggless cake for the sandwiches and found what seemed like a totally reasonable recipe for white cake. Turned out to be a gloopy, unspreadably mess of a batter, which meant I couldn’t get it thin enough to be ice cream sandwich size. I also suffered from “lack of cookie sheet” syndrome due to the fact that I left the one I planned to buy in the shopping cart at the grocery store and couldn’t bear to walk back across the parking lot to pay for it.
Because the ice cream never really hardened, when we went to fill the oddly misshapen layers of cake with the yummy but runny ice cream, it became a chocolate waterfall onto the floor (and the freezer, and my belly). If I hadn’t been so distraught, this would have made for good blog pictures, but alas, that was far from my mind at the time. And my hands were too sticky to reach for a camera.
Now, one flavor of disaster ice cream sandwiches is clearly not sufficient, so we decided we would have chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream as well. On the previously mentioned shopping trip, I bought cocoa powder to facilitate this part of the project, and when I got home, I saw that the inner seal was ripped, so I just threw the whole thing away. I took half the gloopy white cake batter and added the bit of cocoa powder I did have in the house, plus a lot of chocolate syrup. This at least made the consistency better, but it didn’t taste a whole lot like chocolate. The vanilla ice cream was also a better consistency than the chocolate, so round two of ice cream sandwich-making was somewhat more successful.
The sandwich bar itself was really fun, and I got a huge kick out of hearing everyone compare ingredients and combinations. My personal favorite was the tofurkey, apple, and honey mustard on rye.
Lunch turned out to be great, I had a lovely time, it was wonderful to have new people there, and I was once again filled with incredible pride for the Tikvah community. But it was not my smoothest cooking affair, and I must say that recounting the details of this week’s cooking trials has been quite cathartic. If you are looking for a sandwich in the next few days, let me know, since there are a lot of leftovers!