Saturday, April 4, 2015

Chag Sameach!

Since getting married, Matt and I have taken on Passover as the holiday to host. This was the first year we hosted in our new house! I planned the menu carefully, knowing that I would be out of commission entirely the day before due to surgery.

Our menu was as follows:

Charoset (and not just for the Seder plate, because YUM!)
Matzah (we order it from Israel made with certified gluten free oats)
Matzo ball soup
Green beans almondine
Flourless chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream

You've got to love a meal that is 100% gluten free! (Well, Steph and I do anyway.)

I did all the shopping Wednesday and made the cake. It was a feat of pure willpower not to sneak tastes before Friday night.

Friday morning started on the right foot when flowers arrived from my grandparents! They are so thoughtful; they knew we were hosting Seder and wanted to provide a centerpiece! 
I prepped the brisket and got it into the oven by 10am. I had spent about a week trying to figure out the perfect recipe and taking advice from various sources and friends. I finally decided to pick and choose among all the insights I'd gathered and ended up with a recipe I felt confident in.
I've never cooked something this immense or so rife with cultural significance before; the stakes were high!
With onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots in the roasting pan, I seasoned the brisket with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper, then poured a tomato sauce infused beef broth into the pan and cooked it at 300 degrees. It was fork-tender by 2pm but I kept it cooking until 3:00, then pulled it out and let it rest for an hour. It was absolutely perfect: fork-tender, juicy, and flavorful.
This was seriously a rite of passage; being able to cook a full brisket for Passover really made me feel like a full-fledged adult.
Dad is striking his usual "no pictures, please" pose as we set the table.
My parents and siblings arrived that evening and I led Seder. As usual when my family all gets together, it was hilarious and just barely on-topic. (I think Seder was interrupted twice to discuss movies and other completely random stuff.) The food was fantastic and basically the evening was just what I wanted it to be!
Mom's matzo ball soup and charoset.

The main course!
The funniest part of dinner - second only to my sister singing the four questions - was Zach asking if there were rolls to go with the brisket. (On Passover, you don't eat bread. I was like, "Um, matzah?")
I made that!
After dinner, we hung out a bit and I showed off the development of our baby pineapples and bananas. Steph and Gordon spent the night, but everyone else headed out after a few rounds of family pictures.
Zach testing the Indo Board.
Steph taking a turn.
Zach and Matt are matching and didn't even plan it!

The family :o) We're all pretty much color-coordinated now that I think about it. We must have read each other's minds.
Passover is definitely my favorite holiday. Its message of freedom has always resonated deeply with me, and our particular Haggadah draws our attention to the fact that the Jewish people, having suffered oppression, are called upon to seek freedom for all oppressed people. I love that Passover is still so relevant today; although the current situation in Israel is tenuous (to say the least), the holiday gives me hope for the future.

Do you ever host holidays at your house?
What's your favorite holiday?
What's your favorite holiday meal?



  1. I love hosting! We used to host a Father's Day picnic but it got to be too much. Now we just randomly have friends over for game nights and my parents over for dinner now and then. Your fourless chocolate cake looks REALLY good!

    1. I love hosting game nights! I should probably get back to doing that more often!

  2. Wow - looks like it all turned out great and was a fun time with family!!!
    We have hosted numerous holidays (usually with friends more than family) over the years - this year we sort of skipped planning anything for Easter Sunday so it is just the 4 of us.

    1. It must be nice to have a quieter holiday with just the kids. I like hosting my parents because I feel like they've done so much for me, it's really nice to give back.

  3. Your cake came out perfectly! It looks like the brisket and everything else did too. Great job, Ali!

    Adam and I have never hosted a holiday since we just have the apartment. Hosting a holiday is one of the only reasons that I'd like to buy a house. I'd love to have everyone over all at once!

    1. You need to try the recipe...100% flourless and seriously a tiny slice is all you need!

  4. Yay! I"m glad you had such a good day!

  5. Everything looks so delicious, especially that cake! And those flowers are to die for!

    1. The cake gave cupcakes a run for their money! ;o)

  6. Woohoo! Looks like you are an awesome cook! Hosting holidays is fun, but a little stressful. I've done Thanksgiving a few times, and once even cooked a Turkey. I'm vegetarian, and have been most of my life, so I spent the whole time nearly in tears since I had no idea what I was doing. Haha!

    Like the terrible Jew that I am, I spent Passover camping and didn't do anything for it. :-( My fam back in Florida had a nice dinner. Oh well, maybe next year (I'm usually better about Yom Kippur).

    1. I think day-to-day I'm a mediocre cook because I'm lazy, but when I want to I know how to do it right!

      I would've been so nervous to do a turkey. I've just heard SO many things about how hard they are!

  7. Congratulations on your successful Passover! It all looks delicious! I once "once" had the absolute privilege to attend a seder and it was the coolest thing ever.

    There was a lot of dishes at the end of it, if I recall. :)

    1. Yes, my kitchen was a disaster by the end! You gotta love holidays centered around food...once you eat it, the cleanup is a pain!

  8. Yum, everything looks amazing! I majored in (the academic study of) Religion in college, and one of my favorite classes was Religion and American Foodways. One of my classmates covered Passover in the U.S. in a very broad sense, and it really struck me as a holiday with so much relevance today. Happy Passover!

    I enjoy hosting holidays at my place, but unfortunately with our recent move we will always be traveling over Thanksgiving/Christmas to my family in New York or my fiance's family in North Carolina. We celebrate Easter, 4th of July, etc. with friends.

    1. Oh, what a cool major! I do love how food is such a huge part of our culture, no matter what culture it may be. It's just an essential bit of mortar that keeps the bricks of society together!