Liberation from slavery, the “passing over” of the forces of destruction, the exodus of forty days andnights. ChezHelvetica commemorated these events from the 13th century BCE with a Passover Seder honoring this historic occasion, as well as its parallels to life now. The Four Questions usually asked at this ceremony have compounded, with questions about virtually everything going on in today’s world. The meal served and heirloom table settings also honored ancient traditions and cultures while adding fresh touches. First served: Delicious homemade Wise Sons Chicken Soup and Matzo Balls and Apple-Walnut Charoset with Matzot. Next course – a Kuku Sabaszi or Baked Persian Omelet filled with a spectacular burst of fresh herbs and spices, accompanied by dollops of Greek Yogurt and a Mediterranean Olive medley. Our main course showcased succulent Rotisserie Chicken with roasted Honey Gold Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts. After this rich feast, the simple dessert consisted of Strawberries dipped into Sour Cream and Brown Sugar. Dayenu? Enough? Not yet! The next day, which was the first day of Passover, we enjoyed more of the Persian Omelet. On the second day, MatzahBrei! May all our Questions be answered, may Everyone be Healthy and Free!
ChezHelvetica’s first experience with Cranberry Beans, also known as Borlotti, opened a new world in dining. Sensuous in their curved shells, these beautifully pink-speckled oval beans added creamy, delicious flavor to a Tri Color Barilla Pasta dish, nestling on EarthboundFarm Organic Baby Spinach. An Epicurious recipe for the fresh beans (purchased at the VA FarmersMarket ) heightened the taste of the Penne, already bathing in homemade Almond Pesto. Grated Parmesan-Reggiano Cheese showered the Pasta Salad, studded with Baked Apricot Chicken. Empire Kosher Chicken Breasts roasted in my sister’s delicious Apricot Glaze, Lemon Juice, Garlic and Dijon Mustard, then topped with Dried Apricots. An elegant dinner for a Wednesday night!
Why is this night different from all other nights?The answers to this age-old question had fresh answers at ChezHelvetica’s saffron-scented Seder. First, in keeping with young female leaders prevailing in today’s world, our leader was my 25-year old niece, Aliya. Second, instead of the traditional Four Sons, we discussed Four Children – an activist child, a skeptical child, an indifferent child and an uninformed child – and how we answer their questions on ways to pursue justice in our time. Then, instead of filling Miriam’s (sister of Moses) glass with water, it was filled with wine just like Elijah’s. Family and friends from near and far sat where indicated by the artful suede placecards, handmade by Mom, to follow the exotic culinary journey to Persia – Charoset (Haleg) filled with Almonds, Walnuts, Pistachios, Dates, Raisins, Apple and Banana, Matzo Ball Soup with Cardamom, Tumeric and Lime,Saffron Quinoa with Dried Cherries and Almonds, and Shaved Carrot and Radish Salad with Herbs and Pumpkin Seeds. Organic Rosie Chicken bathed in Stonehouse Blood Orange Oil, Lemon and Tangerines delivered mouth-watering Persian Roast Chicken. At first beautifully veiled bottles, Persian Tradition Isfahan Chardonnay and Shiraz accompanied the sumptuous dinner. Delicious Flourless Almond Cookies with Cardamom, Orange Zest and Pistachios, Organic Strawberries and Mint Tea concluded this heartfelt evening as a Silver Dollar was gifted to Josh for finding the Afikomen! Next year in Jerusalem?!
ChezHelvetica celebrated Pi Day on 3/14 (the first significant numbers of the mathematical constant π) along with others around the world. Some aficionados count digits while some eat Pie to celebrate the occasion. With infinite choices and recently made Lemon-Garlic Turkey this evening’s selection was a FoodNetwork recipe for Turkey Pot Pie.
Executive and Sous Chefs chopped, sautéd, stirred, crowned with pie crust and baked. Voila’ – a delicious dinner took centerstage on this special day!
Thanksgiving at ChezHelvetica let things take their own course, one delicious dish after another. A nod first to the exquisite table setting art directed by Mom using menus from the upscale Red Coach Grill in Cleveland, Ohio as place settings, with each guest name written on hand-cut suede. (These almost-antique menus show The Traditional Pilgrim’s Fare dinner price at $5.45, with $2.50 for children.) This evening’s bill of fare, labeled Three-Hour Menu For 6-8 by Epicurious, more realistically could have been called 23-Hour Menu with everyone’s contributions. However, it was glorious! From the Kale and Brussel Sprouts Salad bursting with Sliced Almonds and Pecorino Cheese to savory Roasted Delicata Squash with Sweet Potatoes and piquant Cranberry Agrodolce, traditional Garlic Mashed Potatoes, mouth-watering Turkey with Lemon-Garlic Butter to Sage-accented Skillet Stuffing filled with Wild Mushrooms. Rive Sud Pinot Noir Rosé from France perfectly complemented our feast. Intense Chocolate Fudge Brownies á la mode with Roasted Pecans made giving thanks with dear family and friends the sweetest possible!
“¡Bienvenidos Familia!” Glistening raindrops and autumn moonlight illuminated ChezHelvetica’s Mexican-inspired feast, opening with Anthony Bourdain’s heartwarming recipe for Button Mushroom Soup fragrant with the aroma of Sherry. The centerpiece Mexican Chopped Salad with smokey Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette overflowed with Red and Yellow Tomatoes, Green Apple, Purple Tortilla Chips, White Corn, Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds) and Avocado, on a bed of Romaine Lettuce and Arugula. (Recently, I learned you can regrow Romaine by placing the root in water – now miracles on the windowsill.) Quesadillas made with Organic Whole Wheat Tortillas, filled with Cheddar Cheese, and Tudal Winery‘s Chardonnay delivered even more comfort to our meal. Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie FroYo was the perfect sweet conclusion to our family gathering!
Inspired once again by the “vibrant vegetable cooking” found in Yotam Ottolenghi’s PLENTY MORE, ChezHelvetica embarked on a culinary journey that led straight to heaven. Proof? Witness Eggplant Cheesecake. Roasted Eggplant stuffed with Baby Plum Tomatoes, freshly plucked Oregano, and a mixture of Feta and Cream Cheeses, Cream and Eggs created a truly celestial cloud of savory delight. A brush of Za’atar – a mixture of herbs and sesame seeds – finished the dish, adding the excitement of the Middle East. A bit more down to earth, yet divine in its own right, Grilled Steak Salad joined the table. Grilled Omaha Steaks Sirloin Steak and Red and Sweet Onions topped organic Arugula, also making a voyage to the Middle East with the addition of Figs and a pinch of Cinnamon to the Worcestershire Sauce Dressing. Garlic Focaccia Bread (left a tad too long under the broiler) and velvety Joel Gotts Zinfandel completed this delightful course. Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Ice Cream, crowned with Strawberries and Almonds, was the final present of a very “In The Present” evening!
Today’s Quiz Q: What would college students consider a fun dinner? A: Fondue! Sisters and Nieces gathered at ChezHelvetica for a heartwarming reunion with bubbling Fondue at center stage. French Baguette, Cauliflower with Cumin and Potatoes with Thyme bathed in luscious Swiss and Gruyere Cheeses as the Sterno’s blue flames danced. A Waldorf Salad with Organic Fuji Apples, Celery, Crimson Grapes, Candied Pecans and Baby Greens in a Lemon, Yogurt and Mayonnaise dressing provided extra credit to the meal. All eyes widened at the array of homemade Cookies and See’s Candies for dessert – contributions from #1 Niece Rachel, Snickerdoodle Cookies, dear friend Stevanie Jan’s Christmas Cookies and ChezHelvetica’s Neiman Marcus Meyer Lemon Cookies. The main ingredient of these final bonus points was, of course, Love!
Since 3000 B.C. and its appearance on an Egyptian frieze, Asparagus has been prized by civilizations around the world for its delicate flavor and visual beauty. The ChezHelvetica gallery continues the exhibition with two recent dishes featuring this cherished spring vegetable. The first, a Lemony Pepper Browned Butter Vinaigrette Pasta with Asparagus and Mushrooms and the second, Asparagus, Fingerling Potato, Goat Cheese Pizza. From palette to palate, a mixed media of colors and textures greets the eye as the panoply of tastes excites the taste buds. Using creative license, both dishes deviated from the prescribed recipes using ingredients on hand, like Arugula instead of Spinach plus Aidell’s Sausage with the Pasta, and delicious Las Fortunitas Tortillas instead of dough for the Pizza. After paint brushing the tortilla canvases with Garlic Oil, Green Onions and White and Purple Fingerling Potatoes became the beautiful base, with Asparagus applied as crown – all lusciously highlighted with three different soft yellow Cheeses. A celebration of the visual and edible arts!
The celebration of the miracle of the lights illuminated new culinary discoveries at ChezHelvetica on this second night of Chanukah. For a change, Sweet Potato Latkes with Scallions took center stage, embellished with homemade Applesauce accented by harvested Saigon Cinnamon and Sour Cream. An Endive and Escarole Salad (made with Satsuma Tangerines instead of the called-for oranges) and a Dijon Mustard Tangerine Vinaigrette burst through the rich, fried dishes providing the perfect balance. Happily, Gravlaks plucked from the freezer were still wonderful two weeks later. Macaroon Tarts filled with Apricot and Raspberry were the final blessing of the evening. And Dreidel, Dreidel we shall play thanks to this cherished gift from our friend Matisse.