passover x japan

As previously mentioned in the Galentine’s Day Party post, one of my three favorite holidays is Passover. In case you are unfamiliar, Passover is a Jewish holiday which celebrates the Israelite slaves being freed from Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. The holiday is chock-full of symbolism and ritualistic menu items, which make appearances throughout the Seder (a structured dinner which commences the eight-day holiday). Guests at a Passover Seder will read from Haggadahs, prayer books that tell the story of Passover. One of the most notable elements from the Passover story is that when the Israelites were told to flee Egypt, they had to rush, and instead of letting the dough with which they had to bake bread rise, it was carried on their backs while wandering throughout the dessert, and it baked from the sun into matzoh (a flat, crisp, almost-cracker). So, during the eight days of Passover, we do not eat leavened bread (anything that rises).

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The Seder Table. Photo copyright of Bryan Lorenzo.

This year, Passover felt especially poignant. Each year, we reflect on the oppression Jewish people endured in Ancient Egypt, as well as throughout time, but this year, in the United States, many Jews thought about other groups of people who are being oppressed in our country right now, by our own president, let alone throughout the world, in addition to their ancestors. Many people have added a new tradition of including banana onto their Seder plate, to symbolize refugees, as Jews have been refugees countless times over. By the point in the afternoon when I learned of this new tradition, it was too late for me to make another stop to the grocery store before my guests would be arriving at 7 pm, but next year: banana! Typically, I celebrate Passover with my family, as I am fortunate to have them all live close by, but since I had schemed a foodie fusion Passover X Japan menu, I decided to host a Seder at my home for friends, as a few guests that would attend my parent’s Seder keep very strict kosher for Passover rules, and my menu was needless to say, an artistic interpretation of said rules. My father shared with me the following evening his Passover speech, which was very liberal, very progressive, very pro-immigrant, and very pro-not letting our president get away with oppressing anyone. I am my father’s daughter, no question. To learn more about Passover click here.

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I wanted the table setting to be elegant, but still playful because of the menu, so I incorporated light pink as an accent color and traditional Japanese elements like chopsticks and pink flowering branches. Photo copyright of Bryan Lorenzo.

Now, onto the food!

While flying to D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington, I was scribbling in my notebook various foodie fusion ideas for the blog when I thought it would be fun to do a Jewish/Asian something-or-other and eventually I came up with a Japanese Passover. Once planning the menu, I decided to have at least one Japanese element in each Passover dish and to be as playful as possible. Here is the 5 course menu, as follows:

Appetizer: Fuji Apple and Asian Pear Sake Charoset

1st Course: Cuttlefish Ink Matzoh Ball Miso Soup

2nd Course: Yellowfin Tuna Oshizushi with Quail Egg and Wasabi Crisp (moonlighting as Gefilte Fish)

3rd Course: Seaweed Salad

4th Course: Ginger Garlic Chicken Thighs, Black Sesame Sweet Potato, and Braised Bok Choy

5th Course: Green Tea, Red Bean, and Lychee Ice Cream

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Fuji Apple and Asian Pear Sake Charoset on Matzoh with Wasabi.

Fuji Apple and Asian Pear Sake Charoset

(can be made ahead of time)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

3 Fuji Apples, diced

3 Asian Pears, diced

3 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted

1 cup Sake

3 tsp. cinnamon

2 tbsp. brown sugar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Voila! How easy was that?* *Channeling Ina Garten aka Queen of the Universe :)))

Serve Charoset with plenty of matzoh and prepared wasabi. Horseradish is a traditional part of the Passover Seder, so very fitting that Japanese cuisine readily uses wasabi, which is Japanese horseradish.

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Cuttlefish Ink Matzoh Ball Miso Soup! Photo copyright of Bryan Lorenzo.

Cuttlefish Ink Matzoh Ball Miso Soup

(can be made ahead of time)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2 Matzoh Ball Mix packets, such as Manischewitz brand

4 eggs

4 tbsp. vegetable oil

4 tsp. cuttlefish ink

2 scant gallons filtered water

1 cup miso paste

1/2 cup green onion, sliced

sesame chili oil, for garnish

Directions

For matzoh balls, follow Matzoh Ball Mix instructions, using both packets at the same time. Add cuttlefish ink and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Form into balls, one-inch in diameter, with your hands. Add matzoh balls to one gallon of boiling water, cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

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Matzoh Ball Mix with added Cuttlefish Ink, which you can order on Amazon.com
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Cuttlefish Ink Matzoh Balls: so ocean-y, so delicious!

For miso broth, bring one gallon of water to an almost boil then add miso paste and whisk to combine. Be careful to not boil the miso broth.

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Miso Paste from my local Oriental Market. The mother of the woman who owns the market makes this miso paste herself ❤
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Miso Paste.

Add matzoh balls to warm miso broth before serving. Place two matzoh balls and about 1 1/2 ladles of miso broth in a bowl then garnish with green onions and a smidge of sesame chili oil (it is very spicy).

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Yellowfin Tuna Oshizushi with Quail Egg and Wasabi Crisp aka “Gefilte Fish”. Photo copyright of Bryan Lorenzo.

Yellowfin Tuna Oshizushi with Quail Egg and Wasabi Crisp aka “Gefilte Fish”

(prepare no more in advance than day of Seder)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

*Oshibako Mold for making Oshizushi

1/2 lb. sushi grade yellowfin tuna

1/2 cup white rice

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar, such as Marukan brand

1 cup filtered water

6-8 quail eggs

1/3 cup rice flour

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. prepared wasabi

1/2 tsp. safflower or grapeseed oil

1/3 cup filtered water

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This was the most creative and ambitious dish of the evening, for sure. Photo copyright of Bryan Lorenzo.

Directions 

For the sushi rice, boil 1 cup filtered water, add rice, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Place rice into medium bowl and drizzle with seasoned rice vinegar, stirring to combine. Set aside to cool.

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Sushi Rice.

For the wasabi crackers, combine rice flour, salt, oil, prepared wasabi, and 1/3 cup filtered water in a small bowl and stir to combine. Form into a ball and place onto parchment paper. Place another layer of parchment paper on top of dough ball and flatten with a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to be very thin. Remove top layer of parchment paper and use a pizza cutter to score dough in horizontal and vertical lines then diagonal lines to create little triangles. Place parchment paper with dough on a baking tray and bake on 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. The edges or thinnest portions will burn slightly, but that is ok, as you only need one garnish per serving, so you will have more than enough wasabi crisps to choose from. Once out of the oven, place parchment paper on a wire rack until completely cool, at which point you may carefully break apart the perforated pieces and set aside until plating.

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Wasabi Crisp Dough rolled out, ready to go into the oven.
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Finished Wasabi Crisp to use as garnish.

Place plastic wrap along the inside of your oshibako mold and spray with cooking spray or rub a paper towel with oil along the plastic wrap. Fill the bottom quarter of the mold with sushi rice. Slice 1/4 inch pieces of tuna and place on top of rice in the mold, in a layered fashion. Once the mold is 3/4 full, place mold top onto the tuna and press down evenly for about 30 seconds, insuring the contents of the mold are being shaped properly. Release top of the mold and use a knife to cut in between slats, creating little oshizushi rectangles of gefilte fish perfection.

Place one piece of oshizushi in the center of each plate. Using your finger, make an indentation in the top center of the oshizushi, which will help the quail egg stay in place. Using a serrated knife, cut off the top third of a quail egg and pour the egg onto the oshizushi. Position a wasabi crisp to the side of the quail egg, on top of the oshizushi. Serve with chopsticks. Donzo!

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I found this sushi making set at my local Oriental Market. It is made of bamboo and contains a bowl and stirrer (official term) for sushi rice, a sushi mat, and an oshibako (mold for making oshizushi) and only cost about $40.

Seaweed Salad

Serves 6-8

**I want to preface this recipe with the fact that I actually didn’t like the seaweed at all, so please don’t recreate that part of the salad. The following night, I reappropriated the dish for my parents using leftover raw bok choy as greens and the salad was delish.

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Don’t buy this, it’s not good 😉

Ingredients

1 10 oz. package salted seaweed

1 cucumber, sliced

1 large carrot, shaved

5-6 radishes, sliced

3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce

1 lime, juiced

1 inch fresh ginger, minced

2 tsp. light agave syrup

1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste

1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Freshly ground black pepper

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Salty Seaweed.

Directions

Soak seaweed in cold water for a few minutes then drain and rinse at least 5 times. Pat dry with a kitchen towel to absorb excess water.

Slice cucumber and radish. Use vegetable peeler to shave carrot.

For the dressing, combine sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, agave, salt, and pepper, stirring vigorously with a fork or whisk. Pour dressing over seaweed in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Drain excess dressing from seaweed and pour into separate bowl with cucumber, radish, and carrot, tossing to combine.

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Seaweed Salad. Photo copyright of Bryan Lorenzo.

To plate, place base layer of veggies on plate and form a mound of seaweed in the center then add more veggies around the seaweed. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top. Serve with chopsticks.

Ginger Garlic Chicken Thighs, Black Sesame Sweet Potato, and Braised Bok Choy

Serves 6-8

*If making all three components together, preheat oven, prepare sweet potatoes then roast in oven for 10 minutes before searing chicken thighs. Roast sweet potatoes and chicken thighs at the same time, while braising bok choy on the stove.

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Ginger Garlic Chicken Thighs, Black Sesame Sweet Potato, and Braised Bok Choy. Photo copyright of Bryan Lorenzo.

 Ginger Garlic Chicken Thighs:

Ingredients

16 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

8 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced

4 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp. ground white pepper

zest of 1 orange

juice of 1 orange

Directions

Trim most of the fat off chicken thighs. Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Place chicken thighs in bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

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Chicken Thighs in the pulpy, fragrant marinade.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Add 1 tbsp. sesame oil to a large saute pan over medium-high heat and sear chicken thighs in pan for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Place seared chicken thighs in roasting dish, and roast in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, place chicken thighs on a plate and let rest, uncovered another 10 minutes.

Black Sesame Sweet Potato:

Ingredients

5 large sweet potatoes

2 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1 tbsp. black sesame seeds

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into wedges. In a large bowl (in batches, if necessary), combine sweet potatoes, sesame oil, salt, pepper, and black sesame seeds by stirring. Pour sweet potatoes onto 2 sheet pans, ensuring a single layer of sweet potatoes are on each pan. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, turning once.

Braised Bok Choy:

Ingredients

2 heads of bok choy

2 cups chicken broth

1 tbsp. butter

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

Directions

Cut bok choy into thirds. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook chicken broth, butter and bok choy for about 5 minutes. Remove bok choy from pan, place onto a plate, and cover with aluminum foil. Add soy sauce and toasted sesame oil to saute pan and turn heat up to high, cooking until sauce is reduced by 75%. Ladle sauce over bok choy just before serving.

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Green Tea, Red Bean, and Lychee Ice Cream. Photo copyright of Bryan Lorenzo.

Green Tea, Red Bean, and Lychee Ice Cream

At this point of the menu planning, my brain was exhausted and I decided to use store bought dessert, so I picked up a variety of fun ice cream at my local Oriental Market. It was easy peasy to serve and delish. Perfect!

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