A Passover feast: Where eggs and lemons meet fish

A Passover feast: Where eggs and lemons meet fish

By Shelley Adatto-Baumgarten, Jewish Sound Columnist

Growing up Jewish-Turkish in Seattle, the eight-day festival of Passover was quite meaningful to me. Celebrating the flight from bondage in Egypt to liberation translated into a lot of holiday preparation. The Sephardim from Turkey were committed to the rules of grand hospitality and generosity that had been laid down centuries ago, brought about by a nomadic life. Food during the holidays — and in this case Passover — was the great medium for demonstrating respect and utmost appreciation toward loved ones.

Preparing for Passover was a labor of love that the women of my grandmother’s mid-20th-century generation happily took head-on. At Mah Jongg games during coffee and biscochos, my grandmother and her friends would liven the house with their chatter about what to serve at both seders. There were never complaints. This was a group of tough cookies who engineered these mammoth meals from start to finish. Honestly, they could have commanded a small army.

One Sephardic dish that appears on many Turkish-Jewish seder menus is Pescado con Huevo y Limon (Fish in Egg and Lemon Sauce). This dish is so adored among the Sephardim that it could be the sine qua non of classic Sephardic cuisine. In fact, when asked what his favorite Sephardic dish is, Rabbi Solomon Maimon of the Sephardic Bikur Holim pronounced happily and without hesitation “Pescado con Huevo y Limon.” This is Sephardic soul food at its best and it has earned the coveted position of first recipe out of over 100 in the Sephardic Bikur Holim’s cookbook.

Pescado con Huevo y Limon is important because its main ingredients symbolically represent the holiday. First, fish represents fertility and abundance, which the Jews fought for and ultimately received when Moses freed them from slavery and saved their lives. A parallel between fish and protection is also found in the Talmud, where it states, “Fish are immune from the evil eye because they are underwater.” Although this passage is not specifically linked to Passover, the symbolism in the consumption of fish again demonstrates safekeeping, in this case from evil actions. Also, according to Chassidic wisdom, “Fish do not have eyelids and never close their eyes” (Chabad.org).

This statement could be interpreted to symbolize the sheltering quality of God, whose eyes and gaze are always upon those who follow in His way like the Jews led from slavery by Moses.

The egg, which is part of the seder plate, is symbolic as a visual reminder of the Jews’ pilgrimage and mourning over the loss of the great temple and the Passover sacrifice made at the ancient Temple. The good taste and fragrance of the lemon represents those who have Torah and good deeds like the great mitzvah Moses performed by shielding the Jews from death, according to Karen L. Fox in “Seasons of Celebrations.”

This lovely dish is an appetizer and is served at the beginning of the seder feast along with spinach fritada before the main course. Gently prepare by poaching the salmon and carefully making a lovely rich and thick egg lemon sauce that luxuriously drips off your fork. The exquisite flavor is beautifully tart and complements the salmon. Matzoh is perfect for dipping into that luscious light yellow pool on which you place the salmon. Be certain to include a teaspoon in your table setting so your guests can ingest every mouth-watering drop. Beware: this dish can (and should) be consumed all year!

 

Pescado con Huevo y Limon

2 lbs. fresh salmon (sliced or individual portions)

1 large lemon

5 sprigs of parsley

1 tsp. salt

Dash of pepper

2 eggs

Place sliced fish in a deep skillet. Add enough water to barely cover fish, juice of 1/2 of the lemon, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until done. Stir the juice of the other 1/2 lemon into two beaten eggs. Remove pan of fish from heat. Pour egg and lemon mixture into fish liquid and shake pan briskly to blend thoroughly. May be served hot or cold.

Serves 6-8.

 

Avid professional baker and culinary writer Shelley Adatto-Baumgarten looks forward to teaching Sephardic cuisine at North Seattle College and other locations this spring.