Passover Meal for One (or More)

Tonight is the first night of Passover. I had a busy day of work, school, more work, and more school. I wasn’t raised with any religious education and wouldn’t claim to be observant. A dear friend converted to Judaism several years ago. Early in the process, she would call me with questions. I wasn’t much help. I did gift her a copy of Joan Nathan’s The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, which is an excellent resource. The inscription read, “I’ll always eat pork with you.” I get to be a (red-headed, blue-eyed, freckled) Jew (with a Danish last name) because my mom is Jewish.

I told myself that not having a seder to attend was fine. But I have come to realize that I mark the passage of time primarily through food rituals. Somewhere between Bleecker Street in the West Village and Nevins Street in Downtown Brooklyn, I realized that I needed to do something to observe the holiday. As I transferred from the 4 train to the 2 train, I began to catalog the ingredients at the seder table and sort out how I could make them into a quick meal for one. I figured I’d knocked out the lamb last weekend. And my diet includes plenty of eggs. But I did manage to incorporate charoset, matzo, bitter herbs, karpas and wine into my Passover dinner for one.

The resulting dish can be scaled up to feed a crowd but comes together quickly enough that you can justify making it when you still have a few hours of theoretical approaches to cooking shows to read before bed.

Horseradish, Parsley and Matzo-Crusted Salmon

  • 1 six-ounce wild salmon filet
  • 1 sheet matzo, crushed into a mixture of powder and small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced curly parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Rinse and pat the fish dry. Pour a bit of oil into a glass baking dish, place the salmon skin side down and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Using a spoon, mound the matzo mixture on top of your fish.
  3. Cook the salmon approximately 9 minutes until opaque on the outside but still a little jiggly. 

While the oven was preheating, I made a quick version of a Sephardic-style charoset by poaching raisins, dried and quartered figs, and diced red onion in some leftover red wine, honey and lemon juice with a bit of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove and black pepper. I ate this spooned into endive, which made for a great bitter herb, and topped with batons of Adelegger, a very funky raw cow’s milk Alpine cheese (good cheese being my chosen religion).

Horseradish, Parsley and Matzo-Crusted Salmon


Absinthe Soup


I’ve been battling a cold for the past couple of weeks. Tonight I made the difficult decision to skip a show to which I already had tickets. Instead, I came home and continued to work my way through the frozen soup collection I’ve been amassing.

On those winter days when it’s too cold to think about going out, I spend my time cooking up large batches of soup using whatever I have on hand. I eat it for as many meals as I can stand and freeze the rest. The plastic pint containers that you get when ordering takeout or buying olives are perfect for a single serving. The key here is to be diligent about labeling each container with the date and the contents.

Tonight’s freezer exploration turned up a particularly tasty soup that I made back in January. I had hosted a cocktail party at which I served bagna cauda, a dip of butter and/or olive oil with garlic and anchovies. I like to add some red pepper flakes and parsley. You serve it warm (hence the translation: “hot bath”) with raw winter vegetables and hunks of bread for dunking. The bagna cauda paired brilliantly with both the Prosecco and the Negronis.

The next morning found me with a headache, sticky counters, and a bunch of leftover fennel, endive and cauliflower. The vegetables were beginning to brown where I had cut them. Delicate spinach intended for a salad was also begging to be consumed.

There are a few basic formulas for making soup. This one involves sweating the aromatics, adding the vegetables, gently simmering them in broth, and then pureeing the mixture. That’s it.

The absinthe was a last-minute addition that took the soup to a new level. Tonight it almost made me forget that I am missing Beth Ditto’s performance. Hopefully a cough syrup nightcap will finish the job.

Absinthe Soup

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 tsp fennel seed
  • pinch cayenne
  • pinch powdered ginger
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 2 cups chicken stock, 2 cups water
  • ⅛ cup absinthe
  • ½ head cauliflower
  • 2 bunches spinach
  • 1 head endive
  • salt
  • pepper
  • sherry vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • garnish with plain yogurt, fennel fronds, fennel pollen
  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the red onion and fennel and cook stirring frequently so that they do not brown.
  2. When the onion and fennel are soft and becoming translucent, add the garlic, fennel seed, cayenne, ginger and nutmeg. Cook stirring constantly for a minute or two.
  3. Add the chicken stock, water, endive and cauliflower and simmer gently until the cauliflower is soft. Add the spinach and absinthe and simmer for another 10 minutes – or maybe less. (You want the spinach to retain its bright green color.) Puree using an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or traditional blender.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired with salt, pepper, sherry vinegar and/or lemon juice. Ladle each serving into a bowl and garnish with plain yogurt, fennel pollen and the fennel fronds.