Wednesday, April 04, 2018

A Taste of Pesach 2 Review

This cookbook was generously provided by Artscroll. 
The review, opinions expressed and photographs below are completely my own. 

We're halfway through Pesach 2018 and I can’t believe it! This year’s Sedarim are behind us and Chol HaMoed outings are all but fond memories! It’s back to the kitchen now, with preparation for the second days well under way!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to Pesach. Between all of the necessary cleaning, cooking and logistics of travelling, or welcoming friends and family from near and far, taking a deep breath and remembering the why helps to keep me in check. I strive to stay as happy and calm as possible throughout all of the preparation, which is not always an easy feat - for instance, when the kitchen still has to be turned over, which means you haven’t started cooking yet and everyone else is posting photos of their stocked freezers and oh there goes your two year old with a granola bar in to a room that he has proudly just labelled “Cleaned For Pesach”... just me? Okay… Moving on! I want my boys to look forward to Pesach, I don’t want the word to elicit sighs and images of mad cleaning and scrubbing and missing their favourite foods. I want them to be excited about the preparation, to see the joy and mitzvah in it and to look forward to the meals. I may be asking a lot?

With a healthy helping of preparation, perspective and time management I’ve been able to achieve this the past few years. This year I was more nervous given that it was the first year that both boys were in school full days and I was working 40-hour weeks while my husband also worked full time. Previously, when I was home with my boys, I had cleaned here and there throughout the day over the course of a month. This year I had Sundays and evenings after long days, at most. We made it work though - with a cleaning schedule broken down into manageable and realistic goals and learning to be more purposeful in my cleaning - sticking to what was necessary, rather than taking the opportunity to clean out all of the closets and “spring clean”. When it came to menu creation, I looked back on all the menus and notes I save year to year in a little recipe box and tried to keep a good balance of past favourites and new recipes to infuse a little extra creativity!

             

This year I added a taste of Pesach to our weekly dinner menu a couple of weeks ago, to gauge reactions. Having just received A Taste of Pesach 2, I was eager to try it out well before the kitchen was turned over and the grocery shopping done! With this being one of the busiest seasons of the year, I’m taking a slighting different approach to my review, and sharing a quick overview! Each minute during this yuntif - whether to prepare, enjoy time with family, or take a deep breath, is so immensely valuable, that I want to contribute both my perspective on this great book but also do so briefly so you can get back to doing all you need to! So here it goes! A taste of what I think!

  • Upon first glance, there was no mistaking it’s simplicity, crisp and clear layout, and easy to navigate recipes. The ingredients are highlighted on each page, the directions are broken into simple, numbered steps and the designation of meat/ dairy/ pareve is clear, as is what the recipe yields (so important when cooking for large groups!).
  • The notes are short, concise and give you just enough information to add a personal element to the recipe and assure you that it’s well loved and more than worth trying out!
  • There is something for everyone’s taste. With 110 recipes, there is no shortage of creativity and variety! The recipes appear as if they require a ton of effort, but reading through the steps, you’ll be amazed at just how simple they are! The majority of recipes have less than 5 steps! The nature of their simplicity in no way compromises their quality and presentation of the final results. It’s a win-win, stunning dishes without having to spend days in the kitchen cooking! Some examples include potato knishes, spinach nests, gnocchi and even a recipe titled, “Brisket in a Bag” (p.141)! 
  • Speaking of presentation, the very first chapter of the book is entitled “Plate It!” The authors state, “When I don’t want to invest too much energy in cooking, I dress up my plates so that my plain old food looks beautiful”. Umm...YES! Better yet she continues on to explain that she uses items she already has to achieve this! So to summarize, there’s an entire section dedicated to plating everything from gefilte fish to salads, crepes, soups and desserts, with items you already have to create dishes that are simple yet stunning! There’s even a tutorial on brushstrokes to really elevate your presentation! 
  • Other thoughtful additions include: notes helping to explain how to plate the recipe as done so in the accompanying photo (of which there is one per recipe!), tips for the diet-conscious and tips on how to cut down on prep time. 
  • As mentioned, there is one photo per recipe and it’s a fair representation of what to expect, which is so important! Often, I’ll make something and look back at the picture in sheer confusion of how exactly what I made was supposed to look like what was photographed? Here the photos are accurate, clear and when there is a little extra added, there are tips to help you achieve that as well! 
  • The recipes themselves are current, flavourful and varied enough that there’s something for everyone! A few favourites include, Potato Stuffed Eggplant (p. 33), Cafe Salad (p. 81), Honey-Balsamic Mushroom Salad (p.91), Mushroom or Broccoli Quiche (p. 173) and Squash Mushroom Kugel (p. 177). There’s also Moroccan Fish, Osso Bucco, Chicken Chow Mein and so much more to add creativity and flair to your menu! 
  • The recipes are all non-gebrokts with a section at the back comprised of a handful of gebrokts recipes! This is an ideal addition to an Pesach cookbook collection and even more so if you’re gluten-free throughout the year! Easily your new go-to! 

Overall, I appreciate so many different aspects of this book and how it contributes to a tasteful, simplified and delicious Pesach menu planning and cooking process! If you’re looking to treat yourself for second days after so much preparation already, or need to refresh your menu after so many meals, this cookbook is a great idea! It’s stunning in its simplicity and a wonderful resource!



I’m excited to share one recipe with you (with permission) to help add some green and a light touch to meals that tend to be so heavy (so many potatoes!). I find it equally amazing and hilarious that my new favourite dishes in Toronto happen to be salads from two different restaurants - this coming from the person who would be happy living on chocolate chip cookies and donuts! When I saw there was a recipe for a Cafe Salad I knew it was the first thing I wanted to try! I liked the combination of spinach, with the sweetness of the plums and walnuts and tart dressing. Here’s a simple but beautiful contribution to your table!



Cafe Salad (Taste of Pesach 2, p. 81, Artscroll 2018).
Pareve || Yields 6 Servings

1 (8 oz) bag baby spinach leaves
3 ounces shelled walnuts
3 plums, sliced

Dressing:
⅓ cup oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
½ teaspoon salt
dash of pepper

Arrange the salad ingredients on individual plates or a platter.

Prepare the dressing: Place dressing ingredients into a tall container; blend with an immersion blender.



Drizzle dressing over salad just before serving.

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