Holy Thursday – Our Catholic Seder Meal

13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and ye shall keep it a feast to Jehovah: throughout your generations ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

Exodus 12:13-14

It is an amazing thing to have a seven year old son, who is going to have his First Holy Communion on May 15, 2011.  Part of his education is the understanding of what the sacrament means, both spiritually and historically.

Holy Thursday also known as Maundy Thursday,  Covenant Thursday, Great & Holy Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries is the Thursday before Easter celebrated by Christians to commemorate Jesus’ Last Supper, in which he was celebrating Passover.  This was the very first Holy Communion, and the beginning of Holy Orders, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

Spane wanted to know why the Pastor was washing the feet of the men sitting on the steps leading to the sacristy.  I think a lot of people take this kind of for granted, just as the ancients took the slaves that washed people’s feet for granted.  By Jesus taking on the job of a slave, he showed us by his example, to go out and serve others.

The Passover commemorated freedom from slavery, Holy Communion commemorates our freedom from sin.

Last year, 2010, we celebrated a “mini” Seder meal, and this year we celebrated as well.  I decided to try to make it a meal that might have been served in Jesus’ time, something that would have been common in the Mediterranean.  Our menu had a lot of lemon, including the dessert, Lemon Bars.  We did not want to have dessert before going to Mass, so we had it after we got home.  It was the perfect end of a perfect day!

Our Seder Menu

The Seder Plate

Charoset

Charoset is a part of the traditional Seder plate.  It represents the mortar used for the bricks used by the Jewish slaves in making the Egyptian buildings, temples and tombs.  It is also a little sweet, to remind us of the sweetness of life.

When I make it, although I only use one apple, there is enough left over for Good Friday’s fast of one meal.

I use my food processor to make this in a snap!

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped nuts, walnuts are a good choice
1  apple diced
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon sugar
Red wine as desired

Instructions

Combine ingredients in a food processor and process until it resembles the mortar that was used to build the pyramids.  Okay, it doesn’t have to look exactly like that, but similar.

If you do not have red wine, as I did not this time, you can use Balsamic vinegar instead.

Romaine

The lettuce symbolizes the bitter enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt. The leaves of romaine lettuce are not bitter, but the stem, when left to grow in the ground, turns hard and bitter.

Bitter Herb

Bitter herbs bring to mind the bitterness of the slavery of the Jewish peoples in Egypt.

Salt Water

The salt water is used for dipping the lettuce and other things on the traditional Jewish Seder plate.  For us, it also symbolizes the tears shed by the slaves in Egypt.


The Meal

Tabouleh

684_Tabouleh (Burghul and Parsley Salad) The first time I had Tabouleh, it was at a pot luck someone’s mother had made it – I called it Christmas salad for the longest time because it was green with red and white. Since then I have had it many times, mostly purchasing at Armenian deli or once, I even bought the one that comes in a box.  I was determined to make it myself, even if I had to stand and watch an old Armenian grandma do it.

Don’t buy the Tabouleh that comes in the box, it does not have a bright, fresh taste.  Although Tabouleh may seem difficult to make, with the proper tools, it’s really a snap.  All you really need is a good sharp Mezzaluna.  What is a Mezzaluna you ask?  Well, it’s a half moon shaped knife that you rock back and forth over your herbs.  The double handled one is the best – I only have a single, but it did the trick.

A Mezzaluna can quickly become your best friend when wanting to chopping nuts and herbs.  It is my preferred tool when I am making Chicken with Gorgonzola and Pistachios for chopping up the nuts.  I originally bought mine at Cost Plus World Market when they still carried them, and mine came with a nice wooden chopping block with an indentation in the center for the Mezzaluna.

I was a little frightened of bulgur since I had never used it, but doing a little reading up on it on the Internet calmed my fears.  I was happily surprised with the Zergut’s packaging that said the fine grain bulgur was the right one for Tabouleh..

 

Ingredients

3/4 cup Fine bulgur
2 cups Cold water
2 cups Chopped parsley
1/2 cup spring onions Finely chopped
1/4 cup mint Finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper freshly ground
2 tomatoes Firm ripe
Crisp lettuce leaves

Instructions

Place bulgur in a bowl and cover with the cold water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain through a fine sieve, pressing with back of a spoon to extract moisture. Spread onto a cloth and leave to dry further. Meanwhile, prepare parsley. Wash well, shake off excess moisture and remove thick stalks. Wrap in a tea towel and place in refrigerator to crisp and dry. Put bulgur into a mixing bowl and add spring onions. Squeeze mixture with hand so that bulgur absorbs onion flavor. Chop parsley fairly coarsely, measure and add to bulgur with mint. Beat olive oil with lemon juice and stir in salt and pepper. Add to salad and toss well. Peel and seed tomatoes and cut into dice. Gently stir into salad. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve in salad bowl lined with crisp lettuce leaves.

Mediterranean Grilled Lamb

682_Mediterranean Grilled LambI am very lucky living in Glendale, California, which has a large Armenian population.  Armenians make wonderful lamb dishes, especially kabobs grilled over their special hardwood barbeques.

For this reason, I can get lovely lamb chops at the butcher for a fair price. The butcher at my local store cut the ribs for me right out of the cold storage.  They had just come in that morning!

Another thing about living in Glendale and shopping at the Armenian markets; usually only lemon basil is available.  I like lemon basil, so I am fortunate in that respect.  Lemon basil, if you have not had it, is truly very lemony so it goes great with meats and fish.

These chops would have been wonderful on the barbeque, but I just put them in an iron skillet and broiled them in the broiler.

Ingredients

3 1/2 tablespoons Red onion minced
1 tablespoon Olive oil plus 1 teaspoon
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar plus 2
2 Garlic minced
2 teaspoons Fresh basil minced
salt and pepper to taste
4 5-oz Lamb chops

Instructions

Combine all ingredients except lamb chops, then add the lamb chops and marinate in the refrigerator at least 3-5 hours. Grill or broil the lamb chops until done as desired.

Lemon Bars

675_Lemon Bars

My friend Amber Lewis made these at her home a while back.  The only problem was they were so good in the pan that they never made it on to the serving platter!

When I was working the Scholastic Book Fair at Spane’s school, I was looking through 9×13 – The Perfect Fit Dish, and there was a recipe for Lemon Bars in it.  I bought the book just for that reason, and this is the recipe that was in the book.

As it turned out, we did not have enough time after our meal for dessert, so we had these when we came back from Holy Thursday Mass.

Ingredients

Crust

2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Powdered sugar
2 tablespoon Cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup Butter

Filling

4 Egg
1 1/2 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Lemon peel
3/4 cup Lemon juice
1/4 cup Half-and-half cream
3 tablespoon Flour
1 cup Powdered sugar

Instructions

First, preheat the oven to 350.  Get a 9×12 pan and line it, bottom and sides with waxed paper or greased parchment paper.  This is important!

Make the crust by combining the crust ingredients in a food processor and processing until your have what looks a little like sand.  Take this and press it firmly into the prepared pan.

Combine the remaining ingredients into a bowl and mix them together.  I do not suggest using a stand mixer because it is just too powerful.  Use a regular bowl and whisk.

Bake the crust for about 20 minutes or until the sides start to brown.  Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the filling onto the hot crust.  Put this back in the oven and bake uncovered until the mixture has set, about 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit in the pan until cooled. Carefully lift the bars by using the sides of the paper on to a cutting board.  Cut into bars, sprinkle each with powdered sugar and serve on a nice serving dish.

Armenian Delights!

Koobideh Kabob picture courtesy WikiPedia

Recipes in this Post

I asked my six year old what he wanted for dinner, and he said “Armenian”. That sounded good to me, because it always means the freshest ingredients. I had forgotten that it was Cinco De Mayo, but this sounded so good, we are shelving that for another day.

We like Lula Kabob Burgers, also called Koobideh Kabob, yogurt salad, and herb rice. The yogurt salad always seems like a lot, but it goes very quickly.

You can get Lula Kebob, otherwise known as ground meat kebob at Middle Eastern or Armenian butcher stores. There are also spice packets available at those stores, and recipes on the Internet. I have found that my butcher has a very good recipe, so I just buy his ground spiced meat. Form the meat into patties, and cook as you would a regular hamburger. You can serve them with Lavash and Secret Garlic Sauce.

When you go to get the ingredients for the yogurt salad, it is advisable to go to the market early in the morning to get the freshest vegetables and herbs. This is a very easy to make salad.
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Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

Recipes in this Post

As I sit here writing, I am enjoying a cup of coffee. My friends think I am a little crazy because of the many different ways I have of preparing coffee.

I remember watching commercials for coffee when I was a little girl. At the time, I thought coffee was nasty, and I was right – in America coffee was nasty. The commercial I remember was for Yuban, and one hostess could only get her guests to drink one cup of coffee, while the Yuban hostess’s guests asked for refills.

Coffee was still pretty nasty for me as an adult, I had to add sugar and half and half to make it palitable. One day, visiting friends in San Francisco, I had really good coffee at Square One restaurant. I liked it so much that I had three cups, and I couldn’t sleep that night. I had no idea why that coffee was so good. Coming back to Beveryly Hills, I had another good cup of coffee, and asked the waiter what kind it was. He brought me a package and the package said it was Arabica coffee. I found out later that it was Robusto beans that were in most American coffee, and they just don’t taste as nice. You have to remember that I found all this out without the Internet – this was a few years before it became available.

My favorite coffee is Cafe La LLave from Don Francisco. It is available in supermarkets, and is usually less expensive than the other espresso blends – and tastes better, too. How do I make coffee, let me count the ways:

  1. French Press – very nice and even makes crema
  2. Stove Top Espresso pot – when I don’t feel like dealing with the espresso machine
  3. Espresso machine – when I am in the mood to impress
  4. Percolator – when I want that comforting sound from childhood, and that wonderful aroma that comes out of it.
  5. Drip Coffee maker – I don’t use this often, sometimes at someone else’s house
  6. Melita Ready Set Joe – I put the filter thingy on top of cup, put a filter in it, put coffee in the filter, and pour hot water on top. Mmmm! Even my boss gets excited when I make it.

And sometimes, when the mood hits, I have to have Armenian coffee. If you have never had, this, it is truly a treat. The important thing is the coffee must be very finely ground, almost a powder. I would not try to use my beloved La Llave for this, I buy Edna’s or sometimes, I get it freshly ground at my local Armenian store.

I have a little Armenian coffee pot that I put on the stove, and some nice demi-tasse cups that I serve it in. The method is really simple, and very satisfying:

Armenian Coffee

Even though I don’t like sugar in my regular coffee, sugar really enhances the rich flavor of this coffee, so I recommend it here.

Ingredients

  • 3 teaspoons Armenian Coffee
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • Water

Instructions

  1. Put three teaspoons of Armenian coffee in the pot, with three teaspoons of sugar. Put water in the pot, and put it on the stove.
  2. Heat it on medium heat – and don’t leave it for a second!
  3. When it comes to a boil the first time, move it off the flame, stir it a bit, and put it back on.
  4. When it comes to a second boil, remove it from the flame again, let it settle down, and put it back for one more boil.
  5. After it boils the third time, pour it into the cups.

Preparation time: 1 minute(s)

Cooking time: 3 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Culinary tradition: Armenian

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Copyright © The Good Plate – Adrienne Boswell.
Recipe by Adrienne Boswell.
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