This is the bread of our un-affliction

For many years, I have expressed a desire to establish a tradition in our household of breaking the Passover fast with a loaf of freshly baked bread. I envisioned it as a simple way to reflect on the reasons  we (or at least I) abstain from bread, grains and other foods on Passover–as a reflection on slavery, oppression and states of human emergency in the past and in the present. While we talk about this during our initial seders, the rest of the holiday’s 8 days are generally spent gorging ourselves on matzoh balls and brisket, or quinoa and frittata, as the case may be. So I had this fantasy that I would bookend the holiday with some more thoughtfulness, marking its end with this conscious transition back to the foods we have avoided. I thought it would be impactful to start with something as simple, but fragrant and delectable, as fresh bread. It would be both a physically and emotionally satisfying way of returning to the land of the leavened. I imagined how wonderful it would feel to have the smell of freshly baked bread permeate the house.

Every year, though, I forget to do this until it’s too late. Until this year, when I finally ponied up. What is strange is that this year had Passover ending (this past Tuesday evening) during one of the busiest weeks, professionally, that I have had all year. It is therefore bizarre that this was suddenly the year I finally made good on my promise and baked up some bread. (Am I the only one who procrastinates through baking?) It was a pleasure, though, to take a few minutes from a day spent largely freaking out on my laptop to experiment with one of my favourite ever bread recipes: this honey-oat bread from the Green Mountain Inn in Stowe, Vermont.

I discovered this bread last summer, when I took a short trip to the Stowe area of Vermont with Graeme and his family. I love Vermont for about a million reasons, and food is very high on that list, especially in the summer when fresh produce is everywhere. Our first night there, we had dinner at the Green Mountain Inn, and it was the bread they gave us before the meal that blew us away. How often does that happen?  Just sweet enough and with the perfect doughy texture, we devoured it until they brought us more. The sweetness is so good with a little bit of butter, it’s not even funny. We asked the waitress what it was, and she told us it was honey-oat bread, which I made a mental note to try and find a recipe for when we got home. I googled it almost immediately upon returning, and was shocked to find that Bon Appetit had once printed the actual recipe for that exact honey-oat bread in their restaurant recipe section. It was either fortuitous, or a sign that it was indeed the best damn bread ever, and we weren’t the only ones to recognize that!

Such a treasured bread seemed like an obvious choice for breaking the fast, and indeed, the two loaves baked up beautifully and elicited happy sights as we dug into them. This is a very easy bread to bake (although I am definitely still perfecting it), and I cannot recommend it enough. In the future, I want to mess around with the recipe and see if I can incorporate some whole wheat flour into it, so that I can make it more of an everyday bread rather than a “treat” bread. But in the meantime, it has been two days since I baked it and there are just a couple of slices of the second loaf left; we just can’t resist the stuff. And also, we really, really missed eating bread.

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On Surviving Passover and Kitchen Sink Frittata

Passover is hitting me especially hard this year. While Graeme and I enjoyed a luxurious and delicious seder at my parents’ house on Monday evening by Tuesday morning, I was already craving all the delicious carbohydrates that I had only just begun depriving myself of. This was not helped by the fact that that very first Passover morning brought me the newest issue of Bon Appetit in the mail, which seemed intent on personally taunting me with this cover:

source

Really, Bon Appetit? Really? How could you do this to me? I felt so betrayed.

Unleavened dramatics aside, each year I find that the trickiest thing about Passover is trying not to OD on various combos of heavy meat and potatoes (as well as the excessive doses of Passover cakes and cookies that my mother inevitably sends me home from her seder with). While I love me some meat and potatoes, 8 days of only that will get to even me. Last year, the discovery that quinoa is, miraculously, kosher for Passover is what saved us. This year, we are trying to be more mindful about balancing light with heavy meals in general, with some quinoa, mussels, and salad-y goodness complementing all of the brisket, chopped liver, tongue and gefilte fish.

Which brings us to frittata, which is a meal that Graeme and I seem to consistently pull out every time we are feeling overwhelmed by recent rich and heavy eating. It is our go-to “we’ve had guests in town and been out to eat every night for 2 weeks” meal, our “we just came back from New York where we ate fried chicken and tacos every day” meal, and now, our “Passover is seriously getting to me” meal. Graeme whipped some up for lunch today, using whatever we had sitting in the fridge, which is another thing that we love about frittata–it is awesome for using up random foods that don’t have much time left in this world.

In a great twist of irony, the stuff we had to use up in our fridge was… meat and potatoes. Or more specifically, ham and new potatoes. Yes, I forgo chametz, but love my cloven hooves. It is a Passover tradition in our household. There is no recipe necessary for such a simple concoction as frittata. Graeme started by boiling the new potatoes, and sauteing some shallots, celery and ham on medium heat in our small cast iron pan. He then added the potatoes and some goat cheese, and then stirred in half a dozen beaten eggs and seasoned it all. He finished cooking the mixture in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes. We ate it with salad greens, strawberries and a honey/balsamic vinaigrette.

It was nice to eat something hearty but still relatively light, even if it was meat and potatoes. I did not feel like someone had dropped lead into my stomach. My digestive system was thankful for the break, so that it could prepare itself to get back in the game tomorrow night: roast chicken night.

Happy Pesach!