“Matzo Ball Soup and Beyond” Transcript

Priya Krishna: Hi, this is Priya Krishna and you're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe. You're the Bombe.

Kerry Diamond: Hi Bombesquad. You are listening to Radio Cherry Bombe and I'm your host Kerry Diamond. Each week we talk to the most inspiring women in and around the world of food. Let's thank our sponsor, Handsome Brook Farm pasture raised organic eggs, Handsome Brook Farm secret to making rich flavorful eggs is simple. The most possible space, the best possible feed and lots of love. It's a healthy and humane recipe that makes your omelets cakes custards and everything in between taste better. Want to get cracking? Visit handsomebrookfarm.com. Today I'm handing over the reigns to Lauren Goldstein, special projects director at Cherry Bombe and Jess Zeidman associate producer of Radio Cherry Bombe. They asked to do a Passover theme show and I said, why not? I celebrated Easter growing up, so I'm excited to learn more about their traditions and the foods surrounding this holiday. Before we get to Lauren and Jess, let's hear a word from Handsome Brook Farm pasture raised organic eggs.

Kerry Diamond: Handsome Brook Farm believes that organic and pastured is the way to go when it comes to eggs. Pasture raised means better lives for hens, better lives for small farmers and better eggs for you. It's also better for the chefs who depend on rich flavorful eggs. Handsome Brook Farms own flock of amazing chefs. Their mother hens count on it. Janine Booth is a mother hen. She's the Australian chef behind the southern inspired root and bone restaurants in New York City and Miami. Want to learn how chef Janine makes her sweet corn spoon bread. The ingredients include handsome Brook Farm eggs, some scallions, sharp cheddar cheese, and a touch of heavy cream. You can find chef Janine's delicious egg centric recipes and videos on handsomebrookfarm.com. Where can you find Handsome Brook Farm organic pasture raised eggs? At Publix, Kroger, Sprout's Farmer's market, Fresh Direct, and many natural food stores across the country.

Kerry Diamond: Up Next. Lauren speaks with Alana Newhouse, the editor and chief of Tablet and author of the new book, The Hundred Most Jewish Foods. You can be sure they talk about Lauren's Truelove Matzo Ball soup, and the second half of the show just talks to our good friend Liz Alpern of Queer Soup Night and the Gefilteria. But first over to Lauren and Alana.

Lauren Goldstein: Hi Alana!

Alana Newhouse: Hi.

Lauren Goldstein: We're so excited to have you here today.

Alana Newhouse: I'm so excited to be here.

Lauren Goldstein: To start off, I want to talk about this gorgeous book that you just published, The 100 Most Jewish Foods.

Alana Newhouse: Thank you so much. Yeah, this is one of our more unexpected projects but it turned out to be ... I guess it's not ironic, but it turned out to be an unbelievable pleasure.

Lauren Goldstein: How did you decide, which hundred foods were going to go into the original site that eventually turned into the book?

Alana Newhouse: The way that we do it is, is we open the doors wide to start. We send tons of emails to people and in this case in the food world, chefs, writers, people who are just generally around food and also historians, historians particularly of Jewish culture, also historians of the countries that Jews lived in as well as a bunch of really good home cooks who we knew from a lot of the Jewish communities that we wanted to draw from.

Alana Newhouse: What we did was we asked them very open ended question. We basically said, send us your thoughts about this project as broad or as specific as you want. We got some very broad statements like make sure it's not too New York centric two things that were very, very specific. I always give the example, like the person who wrote to me and said, "If brisket is not on there, I'm going to kill you." Then once we actually got people's responses, we were able to start of collect all of that wisdom and start bringing some definition to it.

Alana Newhouse: We were able to have whole weeks of conversation about Western Europe, for example, which western European foods actually rose to the definition of something that felt uniquely Jewish and how to even conceive of that. What we found was that there were no real rules that felt fair to apply globally or historically, because if what you're looking for is deep significance, significance changes depending on where you are.

Alana Newhouse: The example that I give a lot is the adafina, which is a stew that was made by Iberian Jews who were conversos. Conversos were Jews who were Christianized either under duress or willingly. In the years decades after the inquisition, they were secretly still Jews. One of the ways that they express their Jewishness was by making Jewish food. One of the foods that they made was adafina, which is a sabbath stew. The thing that I found so compelling about it was that the stew could kind of out them to the authorities. The authorities would ask servants to monitor the houses of the people that they worked for, to make sure that they were cooking on Saturday and to make sure they were using sour pork. If they didn't do those things, then they were suspected of still being Jews.

Alana Newhouse: Adafina, the idea that food is not part of what our identity is and not part of our expression of who we are seems completely undermined by that one entry in one fell swoop. 'Cause this is literally a food where people actually expressing their Jewishness and it was putting them in danger. But how do you judge that? You have to apply a completely different rule for how you're going to judge the foods that if you're going to look at the literal these specific hundred years and on the Iberian Peninsula versus Eastern Europe where the foods were a product of a very rich and long history where the bounds we're different. We just started to essentially look at these universes and cultures very separately and try to value them as we saw what they were expressing, which fell to us more fair, and actually gave us a bigger, more accurate portrait.

Lauren Goldstein: That sort of speaks to what you were talking about before we started recording with how Jewish food is so rooted in the history of Judaism. I'd love for you to talk a little bit about that.

Alana Newhouse: Every cuisine emerges out of boundaries. For most cuisines those boundaries are geographical. It's not that the geography's not important, it's a very, very important to Jewish cuisine. But in some senses it's a little ancillary. The four main boundaries that we see as having been operative for the creation of the larger canon of Jewish cuisine. Is the, what we largely call roughly the laws of kashrut, which means not mixing meat and milk prohibition against pig and shellfish. The second one is not cooking on the sabbath or on the holidays. The third one is not having leavened bread on Passover. The fourth one can roughly be articulated as having neighbors who occasionally hate you.

Alana Newhouse: It's within those four bounds that Jews and I would add often primarily has been Jewish women generated this enormous fonts of creativity and creative dishes that spoke to tradition and to ritual and to the life cycle, the calendar while also being delicious and lasting.

Lauren Goldstein: I also wanted to ask you, two of my favorite entry from this book are Leftover's and Entenmann's cake. How did those end up as entries?

Alana Newhouse: There were tons of conceptual entries, and we limited them. Non kosher food is one, leftovers is another. And then there were food stuffs like sweet and low and or produced foods like Entenmann's, Stella d'oro, cookies. Brands, really. And to us it felt like there were foods or food categories that by virtue of their role inside of Jewish life had kind of elevated themselves to the level of food. Even though it's very arguable that sweet and low is a food. But it did feel to us to be that there were things that had to do with eating and had to do with eating rituals, that felt like they just had a home here too.

Lauren Goldstein: Right. It speaks to the idea that food isn't just what's on your plate, that it's the whole process of cooking it and preparing it and sharing it and everything that goes into that process.

Alana Newhouse: Another good example is kosher salt, which it was funny, you know, somebody actually asked me the other day why kosher salt was on the list, and it was one of the first things I put down on that excel spreadsheet when we were starting to put it together because you can't kosher meat without salt. It's the reason why the food so salty. It was sort of amazing to think like the entire cuisine literally holistically would taste different without that basis for it. Even though salt is a seasoning, it still felt deeply kindred and at home with the rest of the foods on the list.

Lauren Goldstein: I did want to ask you how you assigned the chef's and the personality to the foods that they ended up writing about.

Alana Newhouse: It's a little helter skelter, so some people wrote in and right away said, "I want to do this entry. If you do have gefilte fish, let me do it.” Or, “if you do have matzo brei, I want it.” Some of it started to get assigned pretty quickly. Then as we drill down on what, what entries we're going to be on the list, then we were able to start to ask specific people if they would do specific things. For example, so honey is on the list in part because honey plays a particular role in Bible and in Jewish life-

Lauren Goldstein: And in the High Holidays.

Alana Newhouse: And on the high holidays. Marissa Gerson, who is writer for Tablet had written a terrific piece for us before Rosh Hashana a few years back explaining that actually the honey throughout Jewish tradition had a lot to do with procreation, and a lot to do with honey as an aphrodisiac. Basically it's the whole thing about sex. I was like, well, let's ask Dr. Ruth to do the honey entry. But she didn't want it. She had no interest in honey. But what she did have an interest in, she asks us what else was on the list and we told her the pomegranates were on the list, but I never thought of pomegranates as having anything to do with sex or procreation, but she knew that they did. She was like, "I want to do pomegranates." And has what turns out to be this hilarious and lovely entry about pomegranates. I didn't know to even suggest that to her.

Alana Newhouse: Some of it was just really talking to people one on one and seeing what moved them along with a little bit of curation from us. But a lot of it was driven by the people.

Lauren Goldstein: Hey, because these foods are so personal to people, and they represent so much more than what they are when you eat them.

Alana Newhouse: Right. The only match I will take credit for it is Éric Ripert for Gefilte fish.

Lauren Goldstein: I was going to ask how he ended up with that entry because I imagine that one would have been very coveted.

Alana Newhouse: Yes. I woke up in the middle of the night, and it was like we have to ask Éric Ripert about gefilte fish because we just have to. We have to at least see what he says. There were three ways he would have gone. He either would have said, "I've never had it before." Or he would have said, "I've had it and I love it." Or he would have said, "I've had it and I hate it." Lucky for us it was some version of number two, and he actually had, had it and thought it was a lot like a canal. It was just a gift and was really, really fun. It was just that was literally the only one I can take credit for I think in the whole book.

Lauren Goldstein: Which are your favorite entries in the book if you had to pick three?

Alana Newhouse: I think that the three entries that I think about the most are the adafina entry, the one about haminados because it's about my own grandmother, and the use tea bag. The reason for these tea bag is because of how it ended up on the list that day that we had sourced and photographed all the foods, we had a studio in Manhattan and it was late November and it's cold, and I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea and when I was sitting with my tea, Stephanie Burnick is a deputy editor and worked on the book with me, said when you're done, can you give me that tea bag?

Alana Newhouse: I said sure, and then somebody else from across the room was like and when you're done just pass that over here. All of a sudden it was like lightning struck. We all looked at each other and we said, oh my gosh, they use teabag. It's literally part of every one of our experiences but what are we going to do because we already have our hundred foods, they're sitting on the table. We had this spreadsheet on the wall where we would check off each food as it came in and each as it was photographed, and each food as it got placed on the table. At the end of the day we realized that we had only had 99 foods because in excel the top line actually gets counted as the first as number one. There's like some weird reverse hanukkah miracle where we actually ... so actually the use tea bag that's in the book is the used tea bag that we all shared that day.

Lauren Goldstein: On to chicken soup. We noticed in the book there are two separate entry for chicken soup and matzo balls and because this is the Passover episode and my personal favorite Jewish food, is matzo ball soup, I have to ask you about that. Why are the entries separate?

Alana Newhouse: Okay, so you are an aficionado of matzo ball soup, right?

Lauren Goldstein: I like to think so.

Alana Newhouse: Great. I have a question for you. Have you ever had a matzo ball soup where the matzo ball was perfect, but the soup is bad?

Lauren Goldstein: Yes. Sometimes it's a very thin broth, and it's not like fatty enough.

Alana Newhouse: And have you ever had a matzo ball soup where the matzo ball was terrible, but the soup was great.

Lauren Goldstein: Often when I tried to make matzo ball soup, I have a great broth, but my matzo balls kind off kind of fall apart.

Alana Newhouse: Right. So that's the answer to your question, which is that they are separate foods. In fact, I think that one of the boundaries to people feeling like they can make their own is that they imagine that it's this one food item. Except it is made up of constituent parts, each of which you must perfect, each of which is super fun to make on its own. But as anyone who's ever made a chicken soup can tell you, getting it right is both one of the most transcendent experiences you can have. But it's also very hard. There are a lot of factors to take into account starting with your chicken. I literally, I have people who swear by a chicken and an onion, and that's it. That's all you do. Then I have people who just throw everything into it. Parsnips, Dill and Parsley, garlic to them, to everybody their own recipe is so specific and it's so important that it feels like to mish it altogether actually is to prevent people from being able to do it right.

Alana Newhouse: That's obviously very, very true with matzo balls. As everyone knows, they're the floaters and the sinkers and they're like two different religions, people who like each one of them, and it's not good to make ... it's like trying to make a synagogue for people who just have two different views of Judaism, you should probably try to give them separate spaces.

Lauren Goldstein: Do you have any secret ingredients in your matzo ball recipe?

Alana Newhouse: Yeah, I do. I can tell you who to credit for it. The secret is dried lemons, which I shave and in my matzo ball soup. The person who gets credit for that is Mike Solomonov, and it's a complete left total dream changes everything. But I'm sitting here telling you it changes everything, and if you get somebody else to sit in the same spot, they're going to tell you that their salary changes everything. I would say take it with a grain of salt, but since we're on the topic, you should take it with a lot more than that. But yeah-

Lauren Goldstein: A lot of extra kosher salt.

Alana Newhouse: Yeah.

Lauren Goldstein: Have you ever heard of anybody achieving the perfect vegetarian matzo ball soup and do you think it's possible?

Alana Newhouse: I do think it's possible, but I've never encountered it in nature.

Lauren Goldstein: My roommate, who I love her whole family's vegetarian and they came to our Passover Seder last year and my mom was really eager to introduce them to matzo ball soup because she felt that it was so integral to the Passover experience that they be able to enjoy matzo ball soup with the rest of my family. She worked for days to create a vegetarian matzo ball soup and the matzo balls sort of disintegrated in the broth, and-

Alana Newhouse: You know what? There's one thing that I could suggest, which is imagine there's that brand that sells broth.

Lauren Goldstein: Yes.

Alana Newhouse: They sell this thing called no chicken, chicken broth. I wonder whether or not you can dress that up. I wonder if you could boil that with some onions and carrots and throwing salmon off stride lemon and some parsley and dill if it would at least be a good pool for a matzo ball.

Lauren Goldstein: The issue that we had with lots of vegetable broth that we made, we just could not get it thick enough. Because there was no chicken fat.

Alana Newhouse: That's a tough one. As somebody who's a super, super believer in Schmaltz, there's really nothing like it. 'cause schmaltz is kind of a magic food.

Lauren Goldstein: Yeah. Will you explain what schmaltz is for our listeners who don't know?

Alana Newhouse: Schmaltz is rendered fat and historically Jews in eastern Europe used goose and they would, because they could not use lard and they couldn't use butter because they couldn't mix milk and meat and they couldn't use pork. They had to come up with another kind of fat that they could use in their food. What they came up with was rendering the fat of the animal. Generic case was goose. When Schultz moved to America, geese were replaced by chickens. So most people's experiences of Schmaltz these days or anytime in the last 70 years was, has been chicken fat. Although the Gefilteia people will tell you that goose is still ... I think they will say the goose is the best. I think Jeffrey Yoskowitz once told me that it's goose and then duck and then chicken in with the order of superiority in fat.

Alana Newhouse: But schmaltz is really one of my favorite things to make. What you do is it's easy, super easy. You take the fat and the skin off the chicken or several chickens or a hundred chickens.

Lauren Goldstein: Or some geese or some duck?

Alana Newhouse: Or some geese just like find a duck on the street in Brooklyn. You put it with a little water in the pan, and you let it render and so you add some onions, you really can add any allium. So I add Charlotte, but, and then what happens is, is that the fat renders, and the skin that you've used becomes what are known as gribenes, which are kind of like, they're like Jewish pork rinds and they're delicious. You really have to eat them right away though, is the thing, 'cause they don't really, as a fried food, it doesn't really stay. But it's really great.

Alana Newhouse: Then what you do is save the schmaltz and you use the schmaltz as fat to cook. I will say that I've been converted to using schmaltz as a really good fat for anything roasted vegetables. If you want to make a Kugel and use that instead of whatever fat you're using, It's really rich, and it's just delicious.

Lauren Goldstein: I'm actually really glad you brought up schmaltz because I didn't grow up eating kosher and nobody in my family ate kosher. The first time that I encountered schmaltz was at a dinner at Sammy's Romanian and I got to the restaurant and I was like, what if this salad dressing on the table. I pick it up and I'm sort of playing with it. I was with my parents and my three best friends and their parents and they're all laughing at me because all of their parents are Brooklyn Jews who obviously know what schmaltz is, but me having grown up in a non kosher family also on Long Island but in a very different community than the one that you grew up in, I had no idea what it was.

Alana Newhouse: This big revival in schmaltz. Actually Michael Ruhlman wrote a whole book about it. The book is great. And what I love about this renaissance in Schmaltz is that I think it's taking back real estate from the anti-fat contingent of the world and the idea that fat is bad for you, which I think is a huge lie. My father was an endocrinologist, diabetes specialist. Sugar is the absolute enemy. Fat is a friend and-

Lauren Goldstein: That's where the sweet and low comes in.

Alana Newhouse: Yeah, exactly. But schmaltz is in fact, you also need less of it. I found when I cook. I would encourage people to add it to their repertoire.

Lauren Goldstein: We always do a speed round with our guests. So we are doing a special edition Passover speed round. What is on your Seder plate that is not been a typical families Seder plate?

Alana Newhouse: The egg on my seder plate is a haminado. Because I make them for all the holidays. That's one difference. But I also make, Joe Nathan gave me a recipe for Moroccan charoset balls, which is what I use every year, and they're amazing.

Lauren Goldstein: Instead of egg as a spread.

Alana Newhouse: Yeah, exactly. So you and just to make you all want to go and make these because you should, 'cause they're amazing candies. You basically make this date mixture and you make them into these tiny balls and then you refrigerate them. For the adults at least, or for adventurous kid eaters, you can sprinkle them with a little ancho chili and it has a real kick to it. It's truly such a treat.

Lauren Goldstein: One matzo ball or two?

Alana Newhouse: Two.

Lauren Goldstein: Raw horseradish or prepared?

Alana Newhouse: Both.

Lauren Goldstein: Why?

Alana Newhouse: Because if I only used raw, my whole family would yell at me. But you should absolutely always taste raw horseradish. It's very different. It's very unique and I think does give the kick that you're supposed to have.

Lauren Goldstein: If you could invite any celebrity or food celebrity to your Passover theater, who would it be?

Alana Newhouse: The truth is, if I was going to be honest, I would say Joan Nathan, only because I would want her to help me cook beforehand. But the broader answer is, I hate to say this because it sounds like I'm avoiding your question, but I kind of wouldn't want a celebrity at my Passover Seder. I think it would make me really nervous. Also the whole point of the Seder is I think for people to feel comfortable enough to engage with a set of complicated ideas. Passover is not an un thorny holiday. It's if you do it right. I'm always struck by people who take things out of their Hagadah.

Alana Newhouse: I knew someone who was like, I can't ever say that Jews are the chosen people. I don't want to say that at a table because a lot of the people at my table are not Jewish. My thought was always like, I actually think you should say it, and then engage and say, I don't believe this. There's so much. It's gruesome. The story. Yes, I understand that it feels triumphant at the end, but it involves enormous amount of pain and oppression, not only on the part of Jews, but it's a very, very complex story. In order to do it right. It feels like you really want to engage emotionally. I wouldn't mind having a stranger at my Seder. I actually would welcome it, but having Madonna there I think would make me feel like I needed to worry about things other than what I wanted to worry about that night.

Lauren Goldstein: That's great. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you Alana.

Lauren Goldstein: Thank you so much.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Lauren and Alana. Next up just talks to a treasured member of the Bombesquad, Liz Alpern. Liz is the founder of the National Fundraising Project called Queer Soup Night and she is the co founder of the Gefilteria, a company that's all about, you guessed it, gefilte fish and she co-authored the cookbook, the Gefilte Manifesto. Let's give a listen to Jess and Liz.

Jess Zeidman: Will you tell our listeners what gefilte fish is if they don't know?

Liz Alpern: It's totally fair. A lot of people don't know. So  means stuffed in Yiddish. And traditionally gefilte fish was made by Jews in central and eastern Europe by pulling out the meat of the fish and grinding up the fillets, but keeping the skin intact so that the fish would be ground with onions and eggs and bread crumbs, whatever else you had and stuffed back into the skin of the fish.

Liz Alpern: Then that fish would be either put in the oven or it would be poached. Ultimately over time, the idea of stuffing became a little bit more work than most people wanted to do. So essentially we just eat the stuffing, but we still call it a gefilte fish. And in contemporary Jewish life, it's an appetizer. It's served cold and it's generally served with horseradish. It's a very traditional Ashkenazi, eastern European Jewish dish for holidays and Shabbat.

Jess Zeidman: It's not just for Passover. People eat it all year round.

Liz Alpern: Absolutely. Lots and lots of people eat it every Friday night, and every Saturday I certainly grew up, it was at the little lunch after services. Plenty of gefilte fish there. Definitely eaten for all major Jewish holidays I would say. I haven't heard of so many people eating it on a weekday. Although people do confess things like that to me sometimes.

Jess Zeidman: That makes sense. Think you would be the person to confess that too.

Liz Alpern: I think I am.

Jess Zeidman: Were you always onboard with the fish?

Liz Alpern: Not at all. True Confessions of a gefilte fish maker. I wanted pretty much nothing to do with it until much later in life. I definitely passed over that course at the Seder. Hey, you knew I was gonna make that joke. I passed over it. I did not eat it. It was not for me. It was from the jar. So that's the thing is, is that most American Jews eat this virgin of Gefilte fish from the jar. And so it really looks disgusting cause there's this gelatinous stuff, it kind of looks like a gray fish meatball and then you know it comes from a jar. Why would you want to eat that? As a kid it was certainly not, you know, something I would want to eat.

Liz Alpern: The thing that people say is, but the horseradish makes it so good. You know, you just cover it with horseradish, which as a child does not seem appealing to me at all. I never got that as an argument for getting kids to eat Gefilte fish. It wasn't until I ate handmade gefilte fish that I became a convert.

Jess Zeidman: All right. Then how did you go from a gefilte fish hater to a gefilte lover to a gefilte fish maker?

Liz Alpern: It's really been a transition, so I didn't like gefilte fish as a kid, forget it when I was in college, and then after college I started having handmade Gefilte fish. I learned to make a Gefilte fish with the Great Jewish cookbook author Joan Nathan. That certainly helped transition me closer to a Gefilte fish maker. But I didn't become a professional Gefilte fish maker until it was around 2010 I was really excited about Jewish food. My Ashkenazi background and all the traditional foods I grew up with, but the culinary world seemed to be over it I'd say.

Liz Alpern: When I met Jeffrey Yoskowitz who's my business partner, he and I were sort of talking about how gefilte fish was kind of the symbol of everyone hating Ashkenazi Jewish food. When we were thinking about the need in the community to revitalize this food that was so dear to us, we felt that it was very important to start with a Gefilte fish because we were, we were obsessed with this idea that if we could change people's mind about a Gefilte fish, then everything else would fall into place.

Liz Alpern: It would become very easy after that. We took a long time to cook and to make a Gefilte fish and to figure out how we could write some of those wrongs started using obviously better fish. That was the first step that was very obvious and easy. So we used higher quality fish. We no longer work with the gel. So we actually bake our fish instead of poaching it. We said the gel is just, this is what's throwing people off.

Jess Zeidman: I feel like a huge part of the Gefilteria in general is reinvigorating Jewish food for a modern audience. What does that mean? I mean in general, but also specifically to what we're talking about. What does that mean for Passover foods?

Liz Alpern: Well, I do want to clarify one thing that I think is really important, which is in the United States when we talk about Jewish food, we generally are referring to Ashkenazi Jewish food. It's just important to point out that there's a whole global world of Jewish food out there from, Morocco to Tunisia, to Ethiopia to Italy. When we talk about Jewish food in this country, because the majority of Jews are from eastern and central Europe, we talk about Ashkenazi Jewish food or eastern European Jewish food. Our company is devoted to specifically to Ashkenazi Jewish food. What does that mean for Passover food? One of the biggest things about Passover is that people buy all this pre-made food. It's like, "Oh, I'm going to get this cake mix, and I'm going to get this like kosher for Passover thing, and then I'm going to get these, the canned soups that are kosher for Passover-

Jess Zeidman: Cereals, there's noodles. Did you ever have kosher Passover Ketchup?

Liz Alpern: Yeah, Kosher Passover 'cause it doesn't have the corn syrup.

Jess Zeidman: Horrible. I have nightmares about it. It's bad. Tomato jam exists. Why can't I just eat that?

Liz Alpern: Wait, so exactly. The whole thing is that like Passover food is just food. What we've done in the United States as evidenced by the massive kosher aisle, is we get so nervous that things aren't kosher for Passover, that we want to buy all these processed foods and guess what? Like just eat normal food and make food from scratch and you're going to have beautiful healthy food. Just like go a little bit more heavy on the veggies. If you eat meat, go a little heavier on those beautiful meats and fishes. Make some things from scratch, make pickled foods, fermented foods. Obviously there's a whole lot of ingredients out there that are kosher for Passover because they're just unprocessed and what's actually really interesting is, I didn't know anything about this, but I went to a friend's house whose Chabad, so she's very ultra orthodox and the Chabad folk community doesn't eat processed foods on Passover.

Liz Alpern: Everything that they eat is from scratch. So they actually, like I had no idea, I've never learned about this until I went over for Passover and I found that they were sort of living a little bit more like we would have in the shtetl, right, where they're just like cleaning out their kitchen and then using simple ingredients, straight up food. So I am hosting, my girlfriend and I are hosting the biggest Seder in our apartment is definitely the biggest Seder we could fit in our apartment because it's all of the families because they're, all of our families live in New York. It's like my parents, my brother, my aunt, my uncle, my cousins, her parents, her nieces and nephews, her brothers, his, her or their kids. My sister in law's family.

Jess Zeidman: Oh my God.

Liz Alpern: It's crazy.

Jess Zeidman: And Elijah.

Liz Alpern: Yeah. Elijah is going to be the house. There's like babies. It's going to be so much. And so we are in the throes of menu planning as you can imagine. We've got lots of vegetarians. We've got like a whole swath of stuff happening and we're actually thinking about being inspired by our trip to Mexico last summer and making moly.

Jess Zeidman: Oh yeah.

Liz Alpern: We're not going to do beans. We're not going to do grain. Like this is going to be really-

Jess Zeidman: Did you use soy?

Liz Alpern: No, we're not going to use soy.

Jess Zeidman: You don't do soy either?

Liz Alpern: Yeah. So it's like we're just, we're going culturally robust, but I will also definitely make Gefilte fish.

Jess Zeidman: You have to.

Liz Alpern: I'm going to make smoked white fish gefilte fish and carrot citrus horseradish.

Jess Zeidman: Yeah. It's going to be good.

Liz Alpern: Yeah.

Jess Zeidman: You're throwing this massive seder, you're menu planning, what's going to be dessert?

Liz Alpern: Well, I have an answer to that question, which is that Shira, my girlfriend, her family is famous for making little chocolates. They do like all of these beautiful like chocolate barks with caramel and chocolate dipped things and that sort of the traditional Passover desserts. They'll make like a huge array, like 10 different kinds. We sort of have this like bar where you can choose which candy you want. That's what we're doing. It's a perfect way to end the Seder because also at the end of a Seder, you've been sitting there for hours. You've eaten a lot. In some ways you'd just want a little sweet. You don't want a cake. We have in our book a recipe for a sponge cake that I love and I've made the sponge cake with a warm fruit compote and so that's a really good thing to do.

Liz Alpern: But if you're not a baker, I could see where it might be a little intimidating because you're using matzah cake flour, you're folding in egg whites. It's a medium recipe, not a beginner recipe.

Jess Zeidman: Yeah. Can I ask how many eggs go into the sponge cake?

Liz Alpern: Oh my gosh, I don't know off the top of my head, but it's a lot.

Jess Zeidman: It's a lot. That was always my mom's thing. Whenever we went Passover shopping, it was like, I know as a kid it felt like 10 dozen eggs?

Liz Alpern: Oh my gosh. Those are so many eggs.

Jess Zeidman: She's got the boiled eggs for the ... Did you guys do the boiled eggs on the blade and dough?

Liz Alpern: My family never did everybody eat a boiled egg. But I've been to seders where that's a thing.

Jess Zeidman: We are the Zeidman Pressman Group, big major boiled egg. Boiled egg for every meal. Not really, but a little, it felt that way.

Liz Alpern: Yeah, but what about matzah bri?

Jess Zeidman: Matza bri is [inaudible 00:35:39].

Liz Alpern: How good is matzah bri?

Jess Zeidman: So good.

Liz Alpern: So good.

Jess Zeidman: If you don't know what matzah bri is, it's like matzah egg in a pan with some butter. We did maple syrup. Some people do it more savory.

Liz Alpern: There's the savory and the sweet. I do both.

Jess Zeidman: Yeah.

Liz Alpern: I'm comfortable with both.

Jess Zeidman: It's so good.

Liz Alpern: I know I sort of have this personal rule I've developed where I don't eat matzah that often during Passover because you know-

Jess Zeidman: You can't. You know what I've always noticed, people who don't celebrate Passover are not going to observe the whole holiday love matzah.

Liz Alpern: I know such a thing.

Jess Zeidman: Like when I would go to school and my mom would give me a box of matzah to keep in my locker and so people would see me eating the matzah sorta a snack in between classes. They'd be like, can I have some, can I have some? I was like, it's like a saltine cracker.

Liz Alpern: Totally.

Jess Zeidman: If you don't have to eat the bread of affliction for that long. It's delicious. But if that's what you got it sort of ... I mean you start to feel it as you are obligated to.

Liz Alpern: Yes, yes yes. No, I'm totally with you people. People who don't observe the holiday totally love matzah. They sell matzah all year round.

Jess Zeidman: Oh I know.

Liz Alpern: You know.

Jess Zeidman: They sell gefilte fish all year round.

Liz Alpern: They do.

Jess Zeidman: What is another favorite Passover food of yours? You can't say Gefilte fish again.

Liz Alpern: Okay. No, no, no. I wouldn't.

Jess Zeidman: Or I'm not surprised that we covered.

Liz Alpern: Matzah ball soup is obviously very important to me.

Jess Zeidman: Has there been a Queer Soup Night matzo ball soup?

Liz Alpern: There has. I made it, I made it once and a hundred matzah balls was a lot. A lot of matzah balls. But I did it and I did a vegetarian matzah ball soup. It was great. It definitely made me realize that I could not make a hundred fluffy matzah balls. It was a hundred denser.

Jess Zeidman: Are you a sinker or a floater?

Liz Alpern: I'll go for either one. I tend toward the sinkers because what I like to do with my matzah balls is like cook the chicken soup and then actually stuff the chicken into the matzah balls.

Jess Zeidman: Oh my gosh. That sounds amazing.

Liz Alpern: Yeah, I love doing that and like herbs, so I'm very into ... and so those matzah balls just by their nature are going to be a bit firmer because you can't have too loose of it. Like you can't stuff a super loose matzah ball.

Jess Zeidman: No, I can see it falling apart in the soup, which is still delicious, but it's a thing.

Liz Alpern: Yeah, it's a different thing. I tend to go toward that cause I love to like make these sort of deluxe matzah balls, which is definitely something I like to do for Passover. In fact, I tried to push off the soup making to somebody else, this Passover and I was told that, that is forbidden and I must make the matzah balls.

Jess Zeidman: You are the soup maker.

Liz Alpern: Yes.

Jess Zeidman: Do you have any family specific Passover traditions that you've sort of brought with you into your new ... I mean it's still a family Seder, but is there anything specific to you that you cherish and love?

Liz Alpern: Well, something that we've always done that I've always liked is that we ... it's not food related.

Jess Zeidman: It's okay.

Liz Alpern: But we do the four questions, these four questions that you ask and usually the youngest person reads them and we always do them in a bunch of different languages.

Jess Zeidman: Wow.

Liz Alpern: That was something that became part of our family tradition many years ago. We've had French and Spanish and Russian and Yiddish and German and you know, just all kinds of languages. Whoever's there. Yeah.

Jess Zeidman: That's amazing.

Liz Alpern: That's a nice tradition. Yeah.

Jess Zeidman: That's a great tradition.

Liz Alpern: Yeah, it's a good one.

Jess Zeidman: Any food traditions?

Liz Alpern: Well, we've always had all these vegetable kugels. And so a kugel is a bit of a casserole, so it's like this one pot dish that you can eat in slices and that's always been part of our Seders. I'm like ready to dispense with that tradition.

Jess Zeidman: All right. Kugel has to go.

Liz Alpern: I love kugel, but I don't eat it. I'm like ready to go a little more fine dining on my Seder this year. Kugel is like down home eating, which I love. Obviously this is my food, but I'm ready to go for something like slightly fancier.

Jess Zeidman: Yeah. Okay. Are you ready for our Passover speed round?

Liz Alpern: Yes.

Jess Zeidman: Okay. What is your favorite color of those like orange slice, jelly candies.

Liz Alpern: Red.

Jess Zeidman: Me too. Me Too. What is your Haggadah of choice?

Liz Alpern: We always put a lot of different Haggadah on the table and we've made our own in my family.

Jess Zeidman: Oh my gosh. Okay. You're more speeding along egg matzah regular matzah?

Liz Alpern: Egg matzo duh.

Jess Zeidman: What is your favorite Passover Song?

Liz Alpern: Echad mi yodea, that one.

Jess Zeidman: Love. That the great song.

Liz Alpern: I love that song.

Jess Zeidman: Great Song. What is the food you think you miss the most during Passover?

Liz Alpern: Pasta.

Jess Zeidman: Great answer.

Liz Alpern: I'm a major pasta eater.

Jess Zeidman: Have you ever tried to make K for P pasta?

Liz Alpern: I haven't. Have you?

Jess Zeidman: Not that Have I.

Liz Alpern: But in our book, actually this isn't exactly but in our book we have a recipe for Passover lokshen. So lokshen means noodles in Yiddish. The recipe for Passover lokshen is, is kind of it's a noodle made out of eggs and potato starch and you make it in a pan and you make a kind of like an omelet and then you slice it like noodles and it doesn't have a photo in our book, so nobody makes it. But it's actually really great and I've made it, I always do it at like a cooking class. If I do like a Passover cooking class, because sometimes you don't want matzah balls but you want to have soup and you want to put noodles and vegetables in it and these are great.

Jess Zeidman: Oh my God.

Liz Alpern: And they'll take five minutes. I think there's gotta be some sort of Instagram story. You guys got to get the word out.

Jess Zeidman: We got to get the word out. They are great. So that's not like a Passover noodle, but it functions like a noodle. It's close, it's getting there. That's sort of what Passover is all about. I think that's like a fun incentive thing. Okay. Second to last penultimate question. What's your favorite thing to put on matzah?

Liz Alpern: I think you already know the answer to this. 'Cause it's so Jewish. Salted whipped butter in the container, soft enough to spread with some extra salt.

Jess Zeidman: That is perfect.

Liz Alpern: Yes.

Jess Zeidman: Yes.

Liz Alpern: So good.

Jess Zeidman: So good.

Liz Alpern: I can taste it right now.

Jess Zeidman: Yeah, I do. Or we do salted with butter and tiny bit of honey.

Liz Alpern: Oh yum.

Jess Zeidman: My Dad makes that all week long.

Liz Alpern: Sounds so good.

Jess Zeidman: All right, last question.

Liz Alpern: Last question.

Jess Zeidman: To play off the iconic Cherry Bombe speed round final question. If you could invite any food celebrity to your Seder, who would it be?

Liz Alpern: I know I should have prepared for this question and I didn't. I'm going to say something cheesy here, which is that I would really like to invite Oprah to my Seder because-

Jess Zeidman: Hell yeah.

Liz Alpern: I'm not even like this total Oprah fan, but there is something about Oprah that makes me feel like she would be equal parts listener and enthusiastic participant and equal parts contributor. You know that she would know how to step back. But she would also jump in and drop little bits of wisdom and hold space for people. I think in particular it's exciting to invite people to the Seder who may not be Jewish or have that background because the Seder is this opportunity to have interesting conversations and do this kind of weird rituals together, which is really bonding and opening to your heart and to your mind. I think someone like Oprah would just be a very special, thoughtful guest in that environment.

Jess Zeidman: All right.

Liz Alpern: That's it.

Jess Zeidman: That's it. Thank you so much.

Liz Alpern: Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here.

Jess Zeidman: It was a pleasure to interview and have a great Passover.

Liz Alpern: Thank you too. Bye.

Jess Zeidman: Bye.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Alana Newhouse and Liz Alpern for stopping by and thanks to Jess Zeidman and Lauren Goldstein for co hosting today. We also have to thank Jess for producing this show. We'd also like to thank our sponsor, Handsome Brook Farm for supporting this season of Radio Cherry Bombe. Thanks to the band Tralala for our theme song and thanks to you for listening. You are the Bombe.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Paola Velez: Hi, I'm Paola Velez executive pastry chef at Kith and kin in Washington DC. Do you know who I think is the Bombe? Lucía Merino pastry chef at Lucía Patisserie in San Juan Puerto Rico. Lucía moved back from Texas to Puerto Rico to positively influence the food scene in La, east la El Encanto. She's been a pillar of strength after Hurricane Maria and her pastries are delicioso.