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Unburdened

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I think we are supposed to end Passover feeling unburdened and brand new. I feel neither. Do not get me wrong-I had a great Pesach. The weather was amazing for Chicago in March/early April and we were able to get outside and take walks. We ate great food and enjoyed some fun family time. But I have this nagging feeling that I did not do the holiday the way I should have.

Sure, I cleaned my home and scrubbed my kitchen-even to the extent of getting on a ladder and wiping lighting fixtures. I cooked chametz-free springy menus that were tasty and festive. And yet I have some remorse.

Over the years I have collected pots, pans, dishes and serving pieces just for Pesach. But, I guess I did not amass enough. I still found myself reaching for the convenient stack of foil pans and lids, disposable trays and dare I say it….plastic plates. UGH! I feel horrible and typing this makes it even worse. Since when did Pesach become a disposable holiday?

You see, I am a person that feels that once you know something to be true; you must change your behavior. If you know that using disposables that include plastic, foil and foam are bad for the environment, then it is your obligation to stop using them. I believe that and still I found myself knee deep in side dishes that required platters and cookware that I did not own. Instead of changing my menus-I went for it anyway.

Passover is supposed to be a holiday of not just cleansing your home, but also your soul. We want to leave our former self and be unburdened and unencumbered of things that are both tangible and intangible. So, here I am resolving how I am going to do it better next year-starting now.

I am a chef that is known for not using faux ingredients with a ‘take no prisoners’ approach on seasonal produce and farmed fish. I eagerly shop the Green Market and have my favorite farmers that do not spray their produce. I turn my nose up at kosher foods that mimic non-kosher items at the expense of integrity of ingredients. So, what am I going to do to appease my own guilt for my reckless use of disposables?

With Earth Day about one week away (April 22), I made some resolutions for myself.

  • I will no longer purchase flowers for myself or anyone else that has been sprayed (OY!-I did send a flower arrangement during the chag). Flowers grown without pesticides and herbicides are better for the environment and for the recipient of the flowers-who wants all those chemicals in your home?
  • No more disposables that harm the environment. Any disposables I need, can be found in an expensive but earth saving bamboo product-better yet, I will use what I already own. Even eco-shopping is shopping and still has an impact on the planet
  • Less meat consumption. I eat a lot of meat. What can I say-I am a chef and I know how to make it taste good-really good! But, methane is produced by all those scrumptious farm animals and is a big No-No for the environment.
  • I am going to cut out my favorite bottled Italian sparkling water and let my tap flow. This will be tough-I love those bubbles. So refreshing! But tap water with sliced cucumbers and fresh mint is lovely too.
  • I am going to do some foraging this spring. It is ramp season in Illinois. Ramps are wild leeks and are pungently delicious sautéed in butter and tossed with pasta.
  • I am ending this unburdening session with a Pasta Primavera recipe. This recipe is written to include only vegetables that are new to the season. I have not included any out of season vegetables; which is what the dish is supposed to include.

These are some of the new steps I am going to take to rid myself of my frivolous use of resources. Maybe there is something in this list you can do or perhaps you have your list and would like to share? Let me know-I am all ears.

True Pasta Primavera

1 pound whole wheat penne

1 pound fresh fava beans, shelled and skin removed* and blanched and shocked (see below)

¼ pound fresh morel mushrooms, cut in half

2 baby leeks or ramps (if available), sliced thinly

1 clove garlic, minced

½ pound fresh English peas, shelled and blanched and shocked (see below)

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Salt and Pepper

Parmesan cheese for garnish

  1. Bring a large saucepan or stockpot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water, and transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Heat a small sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium heat and sauté the morel mushrooms until they are browned and lightly crisped at the edges. Add the leeks or ramps and continue sautéing until the leeks or ramps are lightly browned (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes until the garlic has softened.
  3. Toss the ingredients with the cooked pasta adding the pasta water if needed to thin out the cheese and form a sauce.
  4. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

*Fava beans are relatively new to the US produce market. They are plump and slightly nutty flavored green shelling beans. Typically found in Italian cuisine-they are a real springtime treat. They are a bit of culinary task though.

  • Open the pod that the favas grow in and pull out the beans. Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Blanch the fava beans in the boiling water for about 3 minutes. While the beans are blanching-place a colander in a bowl filled with ice water. When the beans are blanched. Strain the beans from the boiling water and plunge them into the ice water. This is called “shocking.” The ice water will stop the cooking process and set chlorophyll which makes the beans bright green.

Now, you can gently peel off the skin that is on the beans and reveal their tender deliciousness. The beans are now ready to eat.

Laura Frankel is an Executive Chef at Wolfgang Puck Kosher Catering and author of numerous kosher cookbooks including Jewish Cooking for All Seasons and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes. To purchase her books, click here. For more articles by Laura, click here.
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