By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
This stirring phrase from the Haggadah, the book that sets forth the order of the Jewish Passover seder (feast), has been applicable throughout history and for all peoples. Here we are in 2022, millennia after the Jews escaped from Egyptian bondage, and we are witnessing atrocities in Ukraine. Jews and Christians alike are trapped by Russian forces. They are hiding underground in tunnels or trying to immigrate to other countries, fearing for their lives all the while.
This is very much the Passover story of the fleeing Israelites. On top of being trapped, millions of Ukrainians are hungry, many dying of starvation. Their food supplies are gone and new provisions are not necessarily getting through to those who need it. “Let all who are hungry come and eat” is so true, especially now.
Food insecurity is a real threat to multitudes of people all over the world, including here in the United States. Individuals may wonder what they alone can do about it. My sister Nancy had an idea of how she could make a difference. Back in 1988, she began picking up fresh leftover food from bakeries (like mine), caterers, and restaurants. She delivered them from the back of her Jeep to soup kitchens around the area. By 1990, Nancy created Forgotten Harvest, with one employee and a donated van.
Fast forward to the present day. Forgotten Harvest has grown into the largest fresh food rescue operation in the country and possibly the world, distributing over 50 million meals per year to many food pantries, charities, and soup kitchens in Southeast Michigan, where residents are in need. The food is collected from major groceries and suppliers, both retail and wholesale. The fleet of 37 refrigerated semitrucks travel around picking up and delivering food within 24 hours of rescue. Forgotten Harvest even raises vegetables in a huge garden to help support the operation.
The organization and its 100 employees just moved into a new state-of-the-art facility in our family’s hometown of Oak Park, Mich. Many fresh food rescue organizations from around the country have visited Forgotten Harvest to learn their successful operation model. (Forgotten Harvest welcomes donations at: https://www.forgottenharvest.org)
It is no wonder that Nancy had this spirit of giving back. An important lesson we learned from our parents was their amazing generosity. They looked for anyone who had no place to go and invited them to our table whatever time of year. My personal memories of our holidays are fond ones. Anyone and everyone was welcome. As adults, we have carried on that tradition of inclusivity whenever we prepare a holiday meal.
During the spring, the season of rebirth that brings us Passover, Easter, and Ramadan, we are reminded of religious miracles and our gratitude for freedom. We have many opportunities to help those in need. Open your doors to folks who have no place to go. Food is nurturing and sharing that bounty fills our hearts to be of service to others. “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
The first course at the seder is often gefilte fish, a ground fish ball made with eggs and matzo meal. It is served cold with a side of horseradish. During the eight-day Passover holiday, observant Jews do not eat leavened bread because, as the story goes, the Israelites left Egypt in a hurry and couldn’t wait for the bread to rise. Hence, the creation of matzo.
I would have to say gefilte fish is an acquired taste. If you are unfamiliar with it, please don’t open a jar and eat that as your introduction. Hopefully, you will be able to try someone’s homemade version or make this recipe yourself. It’s quite easy.
Usually gefilte fish is formed into round balls or ovals and poached in a fish broth. An easier way would be to bake it in loaf pans, covered, and put in the oven in a water bath until set, about 60 minutes, depending upon the size of your pan. Chill the loaf completely and slice it into pieces. I make this recipe throughout the year. It keeps for several days in the fridge and can be part of a brunch, lunch, or snack. Using salmon as opposed to the usual whitefish or pickerel is a bit different but quite delicious. It comes out a pale pink.
Have a wonderful holiday meal and let us know here at The Insider how it worked out!
Salmon Gefilte Fish
Yield: 2 dozen
1 lg. Spanish onion, cut into chunks
2 1/4 lb. salmon filets, cut into chunks
1 Tbs. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 lg. eggs
1 egg white
2 Tbsp. matzo meal
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 lg. fish head, skin and bones
2 lg. carrots, coarsely chopped
1 lg. Spanish onion, cut into chunks
2 1/2 qt. water
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
Mince the onions in the work bowl of a food processor. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Puree the salmon in the food processor, scraping down the sides as needed. Return onions to the work bowl along with the fish and remaining ingredients. Puree until finely ground and smooth, scraping as necessary.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or clear wrap. Using a 1/4 cup measurement, scoop the fish into about 24 balls. Wet your hands periodically and roll the balls into ovals, laying them on the cookie sheet as you go. Chill while you make the stock.
Put the stock ingredients into a large wide pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove solids from the stock and discard.
Bring the stock to a boil and gently add the fish. Cover pot and simmer, turning down the heat again, until the fish is tender and cooked through, about 20-30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fish to a large shallow casserole. Strain stock over fish. Refrigerate until cold.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.