Passover is upon us, and it makes me giggle.
I know giggling is probably not the appropriate response, and yet giggling is all I can offer.
Three years ago, I hosted (and attended) my first Passover Seder. I cooked for a week while reading and researching as much as possible about the food and tradition. My husband's family flew in just for the occasion. I agonized over how I could possibly avoid making a dessert without butter.
There was brisket (done Texas-style, because there is simply no better way) and matzo ball soup (which was divine) and charoset (a boozy apple compote) and gefilte fish (which I didn't touch with a 10-foot pole). I became familiar with all the traditional dishes, and to my surprise, pulled most of them off according to the Jewish folks in attendance .
My husband and his father walked our predominantly gentile guests and I through the Seder, which is made up of 14 rituals. Of the 14, four are focused on guzzling 4 glasses of wine. This was something I could get on board with, even though my attention span severely deteriorated by the fourth cup.
By the end, it was hard not to have a smile on your face. The Seder is traditionally ended with the words "L'shana habaah b'yerushalayim", which mean "See you next year in Jerusalem". And thus, I giggle.
I giggle because ever since my husband and I started dating, we have planned to go to Israel around this time every year for the last 6 years so that I can meet his extended family and eat my weight in hummus. April is truly the best time to visit. The weather is perfect and it's not yet aflood with tourists. And yet, every year our plans dissolve for this reason or that.
So when we say, "See you next year in Jerusalem" all I can do is giggle and mumble a smart ass remark about pigs flying out of places, but that is probably not appropriate either.
Instead, we'll be here in Croatia, munching on brisket, matzo and carrots. For my first Seder, I made these thyme and lemon carrots as they met the kosher protocol and are incredibly delicious. This year, I'm taking it up on a notch. Instead of sautéing, the carrots are roasted whole then topped with a garlicky gremolata of fresh dill, parsley, lemon, smoky cumin and, of course, lots of garlic. Once the gremolata hits the hot carrots, the flavors come alive and practically punch you in the face. Figuratively, of course.
I knew the recipe was right when after one bite, my husband said "This tastes like Israel". Well, okay then. My job is done.
Israeli Carrots with Garlicky Gremolata Recipe
1-1 1/2 lb small carrots, trimmed and scrubbed
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 c dill, finely chopped
1/3 c parsley, finely chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
For step by step photos of this recipe, visit the Facebook page.
Notes for your perusal
This is more of a recipe for the gremolata than it is carrots. I bet it would certainly liven up potato salad, or kick ass on a nicely charred steak or be a fabulous addition to eggs.
For the carrots
Preheat the oven to 425F (218C).
Place carrots on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss with 1 tsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. This may seem like a very small amount of oil, but we want the carrots to roast, not fry. We only need just enough to lightly coat the carrots to make the salt and pepper stick.
Make sure carrots are evenly spaced in one layer on baking sheet. Roast carrots until slightly caramelized, a little shriveled and tender, about 15-20m. Remove carrots from oven.
For the gremolata
While carrots are roasting, combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
Transfer hot carrots to a serving dish and immediately top with the gremolata.