DON'T HIRE A CATERER: EASTER & PASSOVER

By Georgette Farkas

Georgette Farkas is officially our Culinary Ambassador at Great Performances, but we’ve also crowned her our Hospitality Maven. Drawing upon her experiences working at leading restaurants and spearheading her eponymous Rotisserie Georgette, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. In addition to everything she does at GP across all teams, she also regularly entertains at home, creating incredible dishes that have that extra special touch that makes the food even more memorable and delicious.

In this series, Georgette shares tips from the caterer’s tool kit to make entertaining at home (almost) effortless. From time saving shortcuts and grocery store secrets to garnishing hacks and presentation magic, she’ll help you host a party that’ll make your guests feel extra special and that you’ll actually be able to enjoy.

She’s also curated recipes for you, highlighting the tips she’s shared. Each month look for dishes and ideas that would be delicious on their own, but that together make up menus that will have you entertaining like a pro.

Each spring I consider the proximity of the Easter and Passover holidays and the ways in which their two cultures intersect in the life of our city. Surely there are dishes that could grace both the Easter and Passover tables. This year the holidays fall from early to mid-April, when the new season’s vegetables have yet to be harvested. Yet, we are none the less hungry for a change in tone. I’m offering a trio of vegetable dishes that are a feast all their own. While they would also make delicious accompaniments to a roasted side of salmon, a chicken, or even a paschal lamb. I begin with asparagus and eggs, as I can’t imagine a spring menu without this classic pairing and harbingers of the season. The bright, bold pink of the red beet and pearl couscous salad is as pretty as any easter frock. Finally, the sweet roasted carrots offer a bridge between winter and spring and have a hint of the tzimmes that traditionally graces many a Passover dinner.

RECIPE: POACHED ASPARAGUS, TARRAGON CHOPPED EGG, GRAIN MUSTARD SAUCE

Serves 4 – 6

I can’t imagine a spring menu without asparagus or eggs, both harbingers of the season and also a classic pairing.

Three key steps to asparagus success: peeling, salting, icing. I like jumbo asparagus for their heft. Use a harp peeler to peel 12:45pm – 4:38pmhe outer layer from the bottom half of the stalk, which will make it tender, as opposed to stringy, and enables you to use more of the stalk. Trim off the woody very tough bottoms. Salt the poaching water generously, so that it tastes like sea water. Finally, plunging poached asparagus into ice water as soon as they are cooked, stops the cooking process immediately, preserving the vegetable’s bright green color and firmness. Once cooled, drain on cloth or paper towel. Very lightly coating the asparagus with a drop of olive oil just before serving gives them an appealing sheen.

As for the mayonnaise, I eagerly encourage you to whip up a homemade batch to avoid the sugar and emulsifiers in commercial versions. What a difference. No matter which route you choose, brighten the mayonnaise with freshly squeezed lemon juice, mustard and grain mustard.  My recipe quantities are just a starting point for making the sauce your own. The grain mustard seeds add a flavor and texture pop.

Ingredients

  • 20 pieces jumbo green asparagus, peeled, trimmed, poached (1.25 lbs approx.)
  • 1 tsp olive oil, to coat cooked asparagus
  • 2 eggs hard boiled, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh tarragon, stemmed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, preferably home made
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure

  1. Toss poached asparagus with a few drops of olive oil to coat lightly. Set aside. If preparing asparagus ahead of time, remove from refrigerator at least one hour before serving. Combine chopped hard boiled egg with lemon zest and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Combine mayonnaise with lemon juice, mustard and grain mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you prefer a more liquid version, don’t hesitate to whisk in some water and then adjust the seasoning.
  3. On a serving platter, arrange chopped egg around the asparagus. You may choose to pour some of the sauce over the asparagus and serve the remainder on the side. I’m confident your guests will want to add more.

RECIPE: ROTISSERIE GEORGETTE ROASTED SWEET CARROTS

Serves 4 – 6

May be made a day or two ahead and reheated in the braising liquid.

  • Ingredients
  • 1 lb greenmarket carrots
  • 1 cup brown sugar + 1 cup water
  • 1 pinch ground cumin
  • 1 pinch ground coriander
  • 1 pinch espelette pepper
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 pinch Fleur de Sel

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. 
  2. Trim the greens from the top of the carrots.  Scrub, but do not peel the carrots.  This helps maintain a firm exterior as the carrots roast.
  3. In a small sauce pan, bring the water and brown sugar to a simmer to make a syrup.  Add a pinch each of freshly ground cumin, coriander, and espelette pepper.
  4. Toss the cleaned carrots in the syrup and then arrange them in a single layer on a sheet tray lined with a non-stick baking sheet or parchment paper.
  5. Roast for 35-45 minutes, or until the carrots are very tender and lightly caramelized.
  6. Arrange roasted carrots on a warm serving platter and pour the syrup from the roasting pan over the top.  Drizzle with vinegar, olive oil, and fleur de sel. Serve hot,

RECIPE: RED BEET PEARL COUSCOUS SALAD

Serves 4 – 6

If we eat first with our eyes, then this dish’s festive pink tones will surely delight. The sweet and sour pomegranate molasses vinaigrette brightens the vegetables, while the cucumber’s crunch contrasts nicely with the tender beets and couscous pearls.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 4.5 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • ¾ cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ to 1lbs red beets
  • 4 to 6 oz yellow beets, poached and peeled
  • 1.5 cups pearl couscous
  • 1 whole English cucumber, seeded, cubed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Small bunch watercress or other cress variety
  • ¼ cup pistachio, toasted, coarsely chopped OPTIONAL
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Procedure

  • To prepare the vinaigrette, combine pomegranate molasses, sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil to emulsify. Season to taste.
  • Poach beets in salted boiling water until tender, drain and peel.
  • Cook pearl couscous in boiling salted water until al dente, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Drain well and toss in approximately one tablespoon olive oil to coat the couscous.
  • Turn about a quarter of the poached red beet into pulp using a plane zester or the smallest holes on a grater. You will need approximately half a cup. Toss the red beet pulp into the drained couscous and add approximately ¼ cup of the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cut remaining poached beets as desired, whether thinly sliced or cubed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss cubed cucumber in lemon juice.
  • From here, the presentation is a matter of your own creative preference. You may choose to toss everything together and serve in a salad bowl. Alternatively, serve the red beet couscous on a shallow platter and place the vegetables around it. If you choose the latter route, drizzle some dressing over the vegetables and serve remaining dressing on the side. If desired, sprinkle chopped pistachio over the vegetables. It is best not to mix the toasted pistachio into the couscous, as the nuts would loose their crunch. Garnish with watercress sprigs.

Images courtesy James Beard Foundation