Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 Passover recipes

Poached salmon
(Ok to prepare in advance.) Mix 2-3 rough-chopped onions with oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Layer at the bottom of a medium baking dish, and place 3 pounds salmon fillet on top. Sprinkle with salt, cover with aluminum foil, and cook covered in a 350 oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Curried couscous

(Now that Pereg is making a kosher-for-Passover couscous.) Cook chopped onion with oil, salt, pepper, and curry powder. When transluscent, add cooked Israeli couscous, cooked chopped asparagus, raisins, more curry powder, and a small amount of mango puree. When all is hot, melt in a bit of shredded cheddar for a risotto texture.

Matzah pizza

Spread a thick layer of tomato sauce on matzah. Add oregano, paprika, red pepper flakes, and chopped scallion. Top shredded cheddar. Broil for 5 to 8 minutes. Note that some people may consider pepperoni to be treyf.

Matzah crack  
Preheat oven to 350. Line a large cookie sheet with foil, then parchment paper, then matzahs. Bring 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (ok to use light brown sugar instead) and 3/4 cup salted butter to a boil, stirring constantly. After 3 minutes boiling, pour over matzahs and spread evenly. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips over top, let melt for a few minutes, and spread out evenly across the top. Optionally add shredded coconut. Allow to cool, or don’t.

Banana matzah brei

Dampen two matzahs, break into small pieces, mix in two eggs, cinnamon sugar, and an entire sliced banana. Fry with butter, serve with maple syrup.


Buy a Macaroon Layer Cake from Oberlander’s. Do not serve at seder, or there won’t be any left over. It is better than the Hagada railroad cake. Oneg dairy-free chocolate chips are very nice, and would be good year-round.

Horowitz Margareten matzah is good, similar to Yehuda. Manischewitz matzah is too thin. Streit’s is a step down in flavor. Whole wheat options get terrible reviews, so don’t bother. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how much I disliked shmura matzah the one time I splurged on that, but a reminder doesn’t hurt.


Do not buy the premade Manischewitz coconut macaroon pie crust. It tastes like gravel. And not in a good way.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Do you need an adjustable plug for a slightly less than 3.5" diameter pipe end? We had that situation for our main drain cleanout in our basement, and nothing fit. The old metal cap had been broken getting it open, which seems to be a common side-effect of lazy plumbers around here who don’t want to work at getting a cap off without damaging it. The 3" adjustable plugs fell down the pipe. The 3.5" plug was too large, and the 4" plug was far too large.

Home Depot around here carries the Sioux Chief Test Titan mechanical test plugs: Similar styles are made by Oatey, Cherne, and more. They have a plastic or metal bottom plate with a spoke sticking up, a rubber gasket, a plastic or metal top plate, and then a plastic or metal thumb screw or wing nut. The bottom plate and rubber gasket are supposed to fit in the pipe, the top plate is not supposed to fit in the pipe, and then you use the thumb screw to force the plates together, squeezing the rubber gasket outwards to create a tight seal.

The solution we found was to use parts from the 3" Sioux Chief mechanical test plug 882-3 (from Home Depot) and parts from the 3.5" Sioux Chief cleanout test plug 882-35 (from True Value). The rubber gasket from the 3.5" plug fit into the pipe with a little encouragement, but the bottom plate from the 3.5" plug was too wide. The bottom plate of the 3" plug fit into the pipe, but was too small to actually compress the 3.5" rubber gasket. So we took the top plate from the 3" plug, turned it over, and put it below the gasket. The 3" bottom plate presses against the inverted 3" top plate, which presses against the bottom of the 3.5" rubber gasket. Then we added the top plate from the 3.5" plug, and one of the thumb screws (they were interchangeable). A little mix and match, and we have a working plug for a 3.4" pipe end.

Another possible solution would have involved grinding down the outer edges of the bottom plate from the 3.5" plug to fit into the pipe. The bottom plate doesn’t need to be a tight fit against the interior of the pipe. It just needs to be large enough to press against the rubber gasket from below.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Old wounds

My open response to the rabbis of the Conservative movement who refuse to officiate at interfaith weddings:

I’m Jewish, and my wife is not. Just as we committed to when we got married over 10 years ago, we keep a Jewish home, and we are raising our son Jewish. Was there really no role for a rabbi at our wedding? The Conservative bet din was willing to convert our son based on our expressed intent and commitment. Why couldn’t a similar process have been used to allow a rabbi to officiate at our wedding?

When a Conservative rabbi refuses to officiate at an interfaith wedding, it certainly sends a message. The message is that the Conservative movement refuses to accept a relationship so important to a couple that they want to form a permanent bond, that the Conservative movement rejects the non-Jewish partner, and that the Conservative movement seeks to punish the Jewish partner. That message is conveyed to the couple, to our families, and to our friends.

Then, after the wedding, the Conservative movement wonders why so many couples doubt that they are truly welcome at a Conservative shul. The same rabbis who absent themselves from our weddings in order to publicly shame interfaith couples run outreach programs to those same couples. They create membership policies which explicitly welcome interfaith partners, offer educational opportunities to make the non-Jewish partner feel more comfortable at services, and even convert our children.

What is that turn-around based on? The only change is that the couple is now married instead of engaged. How can Judaism accord our interfaith marriages so much respect while refusing to participate in our weddings?

Perhaps I am simply living through a strange and difficult time of transition. After all, the Conservative shul in which I grew up would never have welcomed an interfaith family at that time. The Conservative Hebrew School I attended described interfaith marriages as a new Holocaust. Now the Conservative movement recognizes that the demographics of interfaith marriages are not inexorably bad for the size of the Jewish population, while a policy of rejecting interfaith families does guarantee a decline in the next generation. The Conservative movement now recognizes that interfaith couples can support the Jewish partner’s faith, can participate meaningfully in synagogue life, can raise Jewish children, and are more likely to do all of those with support from our rabbis and our shuls. Where in this new mindset does the old policy of refusing to celebrate our weddings fit?

Update: The story at explains the reasoning of a Reform rabbi who changed his position on officiating at interfaith weddings, and is worth reading. Another such story is at