Moses did NOT say “Let our people go make brisket.” However, as a consequence of the parting of the Red Sea, come this time of year, members of our tribe, free from chains, are making their way to kosher butchers and specialty markets everywhere. Brisket is the new manna! We are, as a people, buying tons and tons of it, and seasoning with garlic, wine, ketchup, bay leaves, onion soup, French’s mustard, you name it – my friend Ida Borer uses Coca Cola, and Shana Siegel, president of Gerrard Berman Day School’s board of directors, mixes in beer! Check the Cooking With Beth Blog at for brisket and other delicious Passover recipes.

Come seder afternoon, we will be basting every quarter hour and slaving over kugel, chicken fricassee, stuffed cabbage, tzimmes, chopped liver, charoset, and more. Add to that chocolate-covered matzo, mandel bread, flourless chocolate cake, nut cake, macaroons, and lemon squares…it is not without some irony that the word seder means “order.”

The pressure can be unnerving. “My palms start sweating just after Purim,” said a friend. “Elijah is the only guest that doesn’t make me nervous,” joked another. This year (deep exhale) my sister is hosting. My niece Logan will sing “The Four Questions,” followed by “The Frog Song.” Noah will eat his usual 3 bowls of matzah ball soup, and from every corner of the table, small pinkies dipped in grape juice will create Seurat-like images on their appetizer plates.

My main responsibility: the preparation of the gefilte fish. The sacred family ritual begun in Poland and transported to Brooklyn has been carried out devotionally ever since. My mother and I spend hours side by side, first at the Cuisinart, then shaping our mixture into patties and placing them in the fish broth. The afternoon spent in her sun-filled kitchen is my very favorite part of the holiday.

This year in my mother’s kitchen, next year in Jerusalem! May we all enjoy the reenactment of ancient history, and pass along not just recipes, but the values of our Jewish people.

Gefilte fish

2 medium-large onions, thickly sliced
3 whole carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Heads, bones, and skin from 3 pounds whitefish
Cold water
Cheese cloth

Place well-cleaned fish parts and onions on double layer of cheese cloth. Place in bottom of roasting pan and make sure cloth is secured around fish and onions. (This helps keep broth clear and fish balls white.) Use a large roasting pan with a lid that can be put across two burners on the stove. Place carrots around bottom and add cold water to cover plus about an inch or so. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add seasonings (should be highly seasoned) and simmer partially covered for about 30 minutes. With large slotted spoons, carefully remove cheese cloth with fish parts and onions, making sure to squeeze as much liquid as possible into roaster. Remove carrots and slice into quarter inch thick rounds after cooled to be used to garnish fish.

Fish balls

2 pounds whitefish and 1 pound pike (it takes about 3 pounds to yield 1 1/2 pounds.)
1 medium-large onion
3 eggs

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
Approximately 1/2 cup cold water
Approximately 1/3 cup matzah meal
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Run trout fillets and onion through large disc of electric grinder or have butcher grind fish for you and finely chop onion by hand or in food processor. Transfer fish and onions to large work bowl. Add seasonings and mix. Add eggs and chop by hand for a few minutes. Add part of matzah meal and part of water. Chop mixture, scraping bowl often for about 10 minutes. Add more matzah meal and water as need to obtain a rather sticky consistency. Wet hands with cold water and form oblong balls the size of a large tablespoon. Lay gently in hot broth.