During the hot summer months my mother had a few standard Shabbat-lunch salads. There was a Carrot Pineapple salad made with crunchy sweet carrots cut into matchsticks and mixed together with a syrupy can of crushed pineapple. Also in her repertoire; a leafy green salad with chopped chicken and a dressing that I swear tasted like lemonade. Looking back on it I can’t blame her for her haphazard combinations, she just wanted to get back to her beloved rest-day ritual of devouring a good book or two.
While considering the culinary prospects for Passover 2012, strangely, the words “matzo brei” keep coming up. This is strange, because I don’t even like matzo brei; my memories of this dish feature a matzah-egg mush served to us on white plates with faded pink strawberries along the rim. Neither eggs nor matzo are imbued with any kind of assertive flavors; both elements beg to be enlivened by a second party of flavor. So for me matzo brei was mainly about the absence of flavor. Which is why I’d internally roll my eyes every time someone waxed poetic about the humble joys of matzo brei. Whenever culinary machers like Ruth Reichel would dreamily expound on the simple pleasures of this dish, I wondered what was I missing? The answer was “flavor.”
As a devoted, dessert-first, dentally-challenged lover of sweets I have often been disappointed by the hamantaschen. This iconic Purim cookie seems to me like a baked good whose main concern is its shape. The sweet center hardly ever extends itself past its expected core of apricot, prune, or poppy seed. The cookie crust that encloses its traditional center is often pale and plain in flavor and crumb, leaving nothing much to excited about beyond the triangle. I am calling for a hamentaschen makeover, because, really, a cookie is a terrible thing to waste.
On Passover there are at leat 13 ways of looking at matzah; Matzah Pizza, matzah lasagne (meat and dairy version), matzah farfel stuffing, matzah brittle, brussell sprouts with garlic matzah crumbs, matzah layer cake, chocolate covered matzah, matzah ball soup, matzah meal chicken nuggets, matzah brei, matzah rolls….. And now, maple pecan matzah “granola”.
I had my sweet “eureka!” moment in the health food store yesterday, more specifically in the canned goods aisle. With a glance at a can of coconut milk, all my non-dairy dessert dissatisfaction just fell away.