I remember my late mother standing in line at the grocery store to buy whitefish, rock and pike, which we lugged home.
I turned up my nose as the fish was cleaned, cooked and then ground—all in our little kitchen, with my aunts in attendance to make sure there was enough pepper. Enough pepper to satisfy Uncle Harry was enough to make Uncle Fred cry—and so the amount of pepper in the fish was always a matter of family debate.
Alas, as the new millennium approaches, these stories seem as quaint and faraway as a fairy tale. As in most things, when we get something, we give something up. Today we get the convenience of bottled, jarred or even frozen gefilte fish. But we give up the individualism, the personality, the uniqueness of family traditions.
Here is the good news: We’ve long known that the jarred or canned varieties can be “doctored,” but now even the frozen loaves can be transformed into a unique and very “homemade” tasting fish. The A & B Famous Gefilte Fish company produces a new frozen variety and has come up with some easy innovative recipes that proved delicious.
Every year I’m on the lookout for something new to serve at Passover. So are professional chefs and cookbook authors. And I’m never too proud to seek out their cutting-edge ideas.
William Morrow Publishing has just released “The New York Times Passover cookbook” (hardcover, $25). What a wonderful book! It makes a wonderful hostess gift to send a week or so ahead, thanking the cook for inviting you. It is filled with more than 200 recipes from top chefs and food writers.
Craig Claiborne’s Salmon Pate, Carol Wolk’s Prize-Winning Matzoh Balls and Bessie Feffer’s Seven-Layer Chocolate Cake all celebrate old tastes with a new twist.
Carol Wolk’s Prize-Winning Matzoh Balls
Pickled Salmon Gefilte Fish
Southwestern Blackened and Braised Brisket of Beef
Passover Wild Mushroom-Potato Kugel
Cynthia Zeger’s Chocolate Cake
Bessie Feffer’s Seven-Layer Chocolate Cake
Ilene Spector is a local free-lance food writer.