In my situation, it means a small gathering — dinner for two — at our rental cottage at the beach. This also means a limited kitchen and minimal appetite on the part of the cook to braise and simmer and roast and bake. But that does not mean that we won’t celebrate the holiday; it just means that, like everything these days, it will be different.
And if you are lucky enough to have a large crowd that can gather safely, these recipes can all be scaled up pretty simply.
My menu showcases fresh fish from the Jersey coast, along with blueberries and carrots from a local farm. It’s not the traditional matzah ball soup and braised brisket, but like Jews the world over throughout history, we are adapting to the situation and the location.
Golden Tilefish in White Wine-Dill Beurre Blanc
I used tilefish here because that was available and fresh, but any fish can be used — salmon, cod, flounder, bass, etc. If the fish is thin (like flounder or sole), reduce the oven time to 10 minutes and check for doneness; if thick, like Chilean sea bass, do the reverse, and check it at 40 minutes. Similarly, if you and your crew dislike dill, omit it or swap in parsley, chives or your preferred fresh herb.
2 fillets tilefish, about 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon salt
Generous sprinkle of pepper
¼ cup chopped scallions (leek/onions can be swapped)
¾ cup white wine
Scant handful chopped fresh dill
Heat your oven to 275 degrees.
In an ovenproof skillet, melt the butter with the salt and pepper. Add the scallions and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring it to boil and reduce it by half; the sauce will have a thicker consistency.
Scrape the sauce and onions to the perimeter of the pan and place the fish in the center.
Cover it with the sauce/onion, then top it with the dill. Cover, and bake it in the heated oven for about 30 minutes or until it flakes easily and is opaque through the center. Serve immediately with the sauce.
Carrots with Sumac
Sumac is a bright red citrusy spice commonly used in many Middle Eastern dishes. In this preparation, I circumvent my go-to roasting, which delivers deep, caramel flavor but requires a lengthy spell in a hot oven. Instead, a quick steam and a toss with some robust olive oil, salt and sumac provides all the flavor we need without heating up the kitchen on a summer day.
I served this at room temperature, but it is equally good chilled as a salad or served warm out of the pan. This is the simplest version of the dish, but it can be gussied up with fresh herbs, toasted sesame seeds, crumbled feta or tahini dressing.
3 cups carrot coins, cut on the thicker side, diagonally
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon ground sumac
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a saucepan filled with salted water to a boil; add the carrots and steam them for about 3 minutes until they are crisp-tender. Drain them and place them in a shallow bowl. Toss the carrots with olive oil, sumac, salt and pepper. Let it sit for a few minutes to meld the flavors.
Makes 2 tarts
I cooked these in individual, shallow, 12-ounce Pyrex dishes. They are best assembled close to consumption; you don’t want the tart crust to get soggy. Since there are only two of us this year, the last-minute action is not a concern. If you have a large crowd, task one of your guests with clearing the dinner dishes so you can assemble dessert.
The blueberry filling makes a bit more than you need for these tarts — it won’t go to waste, I promise. Drizzle the surplus over vanilla ice cream, in yogurt, on oatmeal or make a blueberry poke cake. Ditto the cream — drop a dollop into your morning coffee tomorrow.
4 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar (if the berries are sweet, you can reduce sugar)
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup graham cracker crust, separated
¼ cup mascarpone or cream cheese
¾ cup whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the berries, water and sugar to a boil. Let it simmer for a few minutes until most of the berries burst. Remove it from the heat and, using a small measuring cup, scoop about ¼ cup of the liquid and mix it with cornstarch using a fork or whisk. When smooth, scrape it back into the pan and mix it to an even consistency.
Let it come to room temperature.
Make the tart crusts: Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Place a tablespoon of butter in each tart pan and microwave it to melt it. (If your pans are not microwave safe, melt the butter on the stove and divide it evenly between the pans.)
Place ¼ cup of graham cracker crumbs in each tart pan and mix carefully to a moist, uniform texture.
Using the back of a spoon, press the crumbs into the bottom of the tart pan and up the sides. Bake the tart shells for about 8 minutes until they are beginning to smell fragrant and are lightly brown. Let cool.
Make the topping: Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whip until slightly thickened and peaks begin to form, about 2 minutes.
Assemble tarts: Place ¼ cup of the blueberry filling in each tart shell. Place ¼ cup of whipped topping on each tart. Enjoy!