Remembering the Passover

Claire and I are in a small group through our church in which we are reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Through the process of writing a screenplay for his own life, Miller discusses the elements that make a good story. Miller’s hope is to awaken people to live an epic story – a story that involves sacrifice and conflict and a story that is bigger than the American dream.

The leader of the group had approached me shortly after the group had started and asked me if I would be interested in leading a night centered around food. As I thought about what that night might look like, I wanted it to be more than just a night of good food (although there is nothing wrong with that). I wanted to incorporate the aspects of story into the evening. Tell a story with food.

The Lord slowly opened me to the idea of doing a Passover celebration, specifically with the idea of trying to imagine what it might have been like for the disciples to celebrate that meal with Jesus just hours before his death. The whole point of the Passover meal is to retell the story of Israel’s redemption from Egypt. The more I thought about the idea the more excited I became as it would allow me to combine both my culinary training in preparing the meal and my theological training in facilitating such an evening.

I had actually never been to a Passover Seder, but a friend who has led them in the past forwarded me the Haggadah that he has used in the past. The Haggadah is the liturgy and order of service for the Passover meal. I used a Messianic Passover Haggadah published by Jewish Voice Ministries International. The great thing about this Haggadah is that it includes reference points to how Jesus fulfills the Passover symbols as the Messiah as it is written by Jewish Christians.

Lamb is no longer part of the Passover service since Jews no longer offer sacrifices as the temple does not stand; however, I decided to serve it anyway – my reason being that I was trying to capture what the disciples might have felt as they ate the meal, and they would have eaten lamb. Even with the lamb, the food preparation for the Passover meal was not difficult. I roasted the lamb and made charoset, a mixture of apples, walnuts, and sweet wine meant to symbolize the mortar of when the Jews were slaves.

The Passover Seder dinner was great. We all enjoyed the remembrance of a Story much bigger than ourselves. (I think that we as Evangelicals/Protestants have forgotten the rich Jewish Story we are somewhat/somehow apart of now that we have been grafted into the family of God.) The meal was poignant at times – remembering the ten plagues and the bitterness of life – but also full of joy and laughter.

Rather than just ending with the phrase, “Next year in Jerusalem!” I added some more as I wanted to continue the story of the disciples, and therefore I ended with the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, found in Luke 24, and celebrating communion with one another. I absolutely love this passage, and will explain why in another post.

Here were the highlights for me:

  • First and foremost, I loved being able to use both my theological training and my culinary training in one event.
  • Remembering the plagues by dipping our finger in the wine and letting it drip onto our napkin. The act made us all stop and ponder the severity of God’s punishment on the Egyptians.
  • The charoset mixed with the horseradish, thereby symbolizing that life is often mixed with both sweetness and bitterness.
  • Being with the small group in a home and remembering the Story of God’s redemption of Israel and of each one of us personally.

A few of us commented at the end of the evening that we were sad that only eight of us from our church got to experience this. We want to expand it next year to include more people, but we also thought that it was important that the event be held in homes and not in some large hall. The intimacy of the home was very important for the evening for all of us involved.

It was a great evening and I would highly recommend it to all. If you are at all interested in learning more about the Passover Seder, I would be happy to talk.

Asparagus Soup with Parmesan Shortbread Coins

One of the problems living in a big city like Los Angeles is that I have never really experienced seasons. And with that I did not grow up eating what the seasons offered. It was not until I worked in a restaurant that I learned that citrus is a winter fruit.

As I grow in my food knowledge, I am trying to be more cognizant of eating what is natural to the particular season. After all, a strawberry in the middle of May and June from a little farm tastes infinitely superior to any strawberry you might find in Stater Bros. in December. Just as an apple picked from a tree up in Oak Glen (also known as Apple Country in Southern California) will taste a lot better than an apple in May or June.

One of the great vegetables of Spring is asparagus. Those bright green shoots that are so crisp yet tender when cooked properly, slightly bitter but also herbal and oh so tasty. Claire and I love them simply sautéed in a little olive oil with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

But I have found out that asparagus in soup form can be just as tasty. So when I stumbled upon this recipe from Food & Wine, I figured it would be a tasty, easy Spring dinner. And when the parmesan shortbread is added, while the fat content sky rockets, the complexity of the soup also rises.

The flavor of the soup was not overly asparagus, but was there, while the tarragon added an almost minty flavor to the soup. Instead of garnishing with lemon zest, I used the remaining quarter cup of heavy cream and made some lemon crème fraiche which I had hoped would add the lemon flavor I love with asparagus, but was not as noticeable as I wished for. The parmesan shortbread added a nice savory/salty flavor, not to mention buttery, which was lightened by the lemon zest. The soup was also not overly heavy which makes it a great soup for warmer months.

Alongside the soup I made a simple salad of fresh watercress, which is slightly peppery (although no where close to arugula), but also has a nice fruity flavor, reminiscent of pears. With the watercress I added some thinly sliced breakfast radishes, which are a lot mellower than the radishes used, say, in Mexican cuisine, along with some fresh sliced oranges from our tree. I tossed the salad in a white balsamic whole grain mustard vinaigrette. It was a great salad with lots of flavor, even though it was composed of such few ingredients.

We enjoyed this dinner with Monkey Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Most recipes for asparagus soup suggested a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and I understand why. The herbal, grassy notes from the wine were very complementary with the soup.

While fresh sautéed asparagus will still be my preferred cooking method, the soup is a nice alternative, especially when the comfort of a warm bowl of soup is very enticing.

Bon appétit!

Asparagus Soup with Parmesan Shortbread Coins

  • Recipe by Carla Hall
  • Active: 50 MIN
  • Total Time: 1 HR 30 MIN
  • Servings: 6

Ingredients

Shortbread

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (6 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks

Soup

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup tarragon leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • Finely grated lemon zest, for garnish

Directions

  1. MAKE THE SHORTBREAD: In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the flour, cheese, thyme, lemon zest and salt. Add the butter and egg yolks and beat at medium speed until lightly moistened crumbs form. Gather the crumbs and knead to form a 2-inch-thick log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Slice the log 1/4 inch thick and arrange on the baking sheets. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden around the edges; let cool on the sheets.
  3. MAKE THE SOUP: In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer until the asparagus is tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the 1/4 cup of tarragon and the parsley. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender. Return the soup to the pot, add the cream and peas; rewarm. Season with salt and white pepper and garnish with tarragon and zest. Serve with the Parmesan coins.