Archive for April, 2004

Banana Farfel

The Soup Lady doesn’t know from making a Seder, but she knows a good thing when she sees it. Debra Galant calls this dish the culinary highpoint of her Passover dinner and that’s good enough for me. She writes:

Dear Soup Lady,
My husband’s Aunt Frieda offers a very traditional Seder, using the Maxwell House Hagaddah, and the Seder is run by her very charming husband, Uncle Irv. (Of course. Most Jewish families have at least one Uncle Irv.) Frieda usually makes one chicken dish, one beef or veal, plus the farfel, plus potato puffs, plus matzo ball soup of course, plus hard-boiled eggs, plus gefilte fish, plus asparagus and sometimes a yummy black radish dish made with schmalz(chicken fat). In addition to all the ceremonial foods and the desserts, she makes the most amazing Banana Farfel – the high point, culinarily, for Passover for me. That and matzo brie, which is just French toast made with matzo. (I’ve read that Steven Spielberg has matzo brei every day.) Aunt Frieda said it was ok to let loose on the internet with this, and she made me rummage through my tin box of recipes for it:

2 cups matzo farfel
2 well-beaten eggs
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of chicken fat or oil
1 apple, peeled and diced

1 banana, cut lengthwise
1 apple, peeled and cut lengthwise

To prevent discoloration of the fruit, place the slices into a bowl of cool water to which a small amount of lemon juice has been added. Cover the farfel with cold water and drain immediately – do not let it get soggy. Add the beaten eggs and mix. Stir in the salt, sugar, fat or oil, and the diced apple. Place in a well-greased 9X9 baking dish. Place the sliced apples and bananas on top of the mixture, alternately. Bake at 350 for 35 – 40 minutes. Watch for it to brown. It is best to use a glass baking dish so you can watch it.

I have been going to this Seder and eating this farfel dish for 19 years, since I was just my husband’s girlfriend. She calls it Farfel Pudding, but I would say it’s much more a consistency of a kugel. Farfel is just broken up pieces of matzo, I think. The taste? Out of this world.
Debra Galant

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Potato Pancakes

It’s Week 5 of the Lenten season and meat-free meals are all around. Fish, fish sticks, baked fish, tuna fish, fried fish, fish balls and Hey, how about some fish?Luckily, in this neck of the woods, the fish are outnumbered by the pierogis. Clam chower suddenly has a big presence around here now, but when I was growing up, we didn’t have clams and could barely afford fish. But honey, we had plenty of potatoes. A hot lunch of tomato soup and potato pancakes every Friday for 12 years makes me something of an expert when it comes to assessing a potato pancake.

This is not a good potato pancake: undesireable
Note the leaden appearance – can’t you just feel the grease right through the computer screen? This is a result of two things: first, the frying oil was not hot enough and second, fine grating turned the potato into unappealing pulp. A good one has a lot of unprocessed potato surface and it’s quickly fried in very hot oil until it all exposed surfaces are crisp.

admit it - you want me. Now this is a good pancake. From none other than Martha Stewart herself (What will we do without you, Martha?) comes instructions for a perfect pancake. The secret is that the potato is grated on the long side to produce lovely strips of potato that bunch together loosely. Then the oil can get in the spaces between the potato strips to do it work. the other thing that makes this a superior experience is that there is no flour used as a binder. The flavor is pure spud -not greasy flour paste- because the binder is the thick starchy water drained from the potatoes.

2 all-purpose or Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 medium white onion, finely grated
8 scallion greens, finely slivered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
1. Over a large bowl of cold water, grate potatoes into long strips, using the largest holes of a box grater. Transfer grated potatoes from water into another bowl. Pour off water from first bowl, reserving sediment. Add sediment to potatoes.
2. Add eggs, onion, and scallion greens. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well by hand.
3. Fill a large heavy-bottomed frying pan with 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch of oil until very hot, about 385°.
4. Drop 1 heaping tablespoonful of potato mixture into the pan. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes; the pan should hold five or six pancakes per batch. Turn pancakes over, and cook on the other side until golden brown, about another 3 minutes.
5. Can be transferred to a baking sheet and kept warm in a 200° oven for up to a half hour before serving.
recipe from marthastewart.com

Sometimes I give myself a laugh by adding sweet potatos to the mixture instead of using all white, but of course, that is not the classic P.P. experience. The Soup Lady is a card-carrying member of the Sour Cream Club when it comes to potato pancakes. Try these with a bowl of plain tomato soup for the perfect meat-free meal. Unless you happen to like fish.

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