Passover, that joyous spring holiday with its hope for renewal and redemption, always lifts my spirits. The roasted egg, the Hillel sandwich, the wine, and the matzah are so steeped in tradition that Tevye would be proud.
Passover Master Class Series
I was quite pleased to get the invitation from the Jewish Federation for the virtual Master Class series for Passover. Our own personal NEPA cooking show!! Chef LeAnne Shor, a local blogger, www.lionsbread.com, and mother of two, living in the Poconos, would prepare Chicken Tagine with Dried Fruit, and Flourless Molten Chocolate Cake, while Kevin Dana, owner of Binah Winery, a local kosher artisanal winery located in Allentown, would show us how to complement the menu with inspired wine pairings. My mouth watered at the thought of creating some new traditions in my own household.
Chicken Tagine from Lion’s Bread
The Chicken Tagine was first on the calendar. I watched Chef LeAnne organize her ingredients on the counter. She advised us to always prep our ingredients first, something that I never seem able to do in my kitchen. Why am I am always reaching for the spices while I’m in the middle of stirring or mixing something? My method makes my cooking very complicated, but Chef LeAnne broke it all down for us with her calm manner and a good sense of crowd control. I’m partial, but anything with chicken thighs, apricots, dates, prunes, and date syrup/honey has got to be good in my book.
Binah Kosher Winery
The next week, Kevin Danna of Allentown, PA shared his passion and mission for artisanal kosher wine sourcing local grapes. Using a combination of PowerPoint and conversation, Kevin delved into the beginnings of Binah as a vineyard where family members brought the grapes to maturity and then to the winery. We learned many facets of winemaking, including the fascinating process of making sparkling wine! Questions and comments reflected the audience’s interest and appreciation for Kevin’s love of winemaking.
Binah wines are certified kosher for Passover, and all year by both the Orthodox Union (OU) and the Allentown Orthodox Rabbinate, and can be found at the Greenridge Giant Market and on Kevin’s website www.binahwines.com.
Flourless Molten Chocolate Cake | Lion’s Bread
It was the flourless molten chocolate cake that truly nipped my tastebuds. I’ll skip dinner to make room for anything with the words “molten” and “chocolate” in the same sentence. Luckily Chef LeAnne had already led us through the main course with her Chicken Tagine, so it was definitely, deliberately, and deliciously time for the best part of the meal.
Chef LeAnne once again displayed all of her ingredients, nicely measured and lined up on the counter, and reminded us that baking is a science, requiring strict adherence to times and specific ingredients. “Prep all your ingredients and follow the recipe to a T,” she cautioned us. We were Jewish mothers, but who knew we were scientists?!
“Use a neutral olive oil and whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are frothy and smooth,” instructed Chef LeAnne. The big bowl she used reminded me of the one my grandma used to whip a dozen egg yolks for her Passover sponge cake, and that made me a little teary-eyed. But we warriors of the kitchen were creating new traditions to add to the old, so carry on.
All of us salivated when Chef LeAnne chopped the 70% dark chocolate pieces, and carefully melted them in a double boiler. She has two kids but doesn’t own a microwave. How is that possible? But at this point, I would do whatever Chef LeAnne told me to do, short of mixing dairy with fleische! She then sprayed each ramekin with cooking spray and carefully coated each with cocoa powder in preparation for the gooey, chocolatey, egg, almond flour, vanilla, and salt mixture that would transform magically into a tasty volcano, spewing forth chocolate lava. Chef LeAnne led us to the brink of chocolate ecstasy when she finally put the filled ramekins on a baking tin lined with parchment paper and slipped them into a 400-degree oven. We had 12-14 minutes to wait.
During our virtual cooking experience, the chatbox filled with questions as we learned that if we wanted to serve to a larger crowd we could use muffin tins or a cake pan. Others asked about different flours, but Chef LeAnne recommended almond flour over other substitutes and told us that kosher Morton salt was her preferred brand.
Imagine having such talent right in NEPA! I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t wait to make these recipes in my own kitchen and actually get to eat them, with a pairing of Binah wine. Thank you, Jewish Federation, for this wonderful series of programs.
By Joan Davis