Slow Cooker Beef Stew (bottom left)

Slow Cooker Beef Stew (bottom left)

Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Serving a cornucopia of cultures

Cathi Litzenberger offers a variety of dishes to honour both Christians as they mark Holy Week and Jews as they mark Passover

Spring reminds all of us that there is always a way to start over, to make new decisions, to release the old and embrace the new; to be thankful for life.

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for the Christian faith which commemorates the temptation, betrayal, and crucifixion of Jesus and finally, His resurrection from the cross on Easter Sunday. As well this month, the Jewish faith will be celebrating Passover (Pesach) which, briefly, is a commemoration of their liberation more than 3,300 years ago by God from slavery in ancient Egypt that was ruled by the Pharaohs. This year Passover starts the evening of March 25 and goes to the evening of April 2.

With these significant religious celebrations in mind, I decided to offer a mixture of recipes which can be used respectively for both Christian and Jewish celebrations; the exception being the beef stew, because a lamb stew would be more appropriate for Passover. But everyone, regardless of religion or beliefs, is sure to enjoy today’s recipes.

Andrea’s Halibut with Veggies and Feta

4 halibut fillets

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup diced zucchini

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp. fresh chopped basil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups diced tomatoes, or use cherry tomatoes halved

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 450 F. Squeeze lemon juice on each fillet; set aside. Heat olive oil in skillet and sauté onion, zucchini and garlic. Remove from heat. Add basil, salt, and pepper, and tomatoes to first mixture; mix well.

Divide mixture, and top each fillet with an equal portion. Sprinkle each with feta cheese. Place in a foil pan that is lightly sprayed with oil and bake for 15- 20 minutes (depending on thickness of fillet). Serve on rice.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

2 lbs. (1 kg.) stewing beef cubes

4 potatoes, peeled and cut in wedges

3 carrots, cut in chunks

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 cups beef stock

1 can (5 oz./156 mL) tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

Trim and cut beef into 1-inch cubes.  In 18- to 24-cup (4.5 to 6 L) slow-cooker, mix together beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, beef stock, tomato paste, bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and cook on Low for 10 to 12 hours (or on High for 5 to 6 hours) or until beef and vegetables are tender.

Add peas, salt and pepper. Increase heat to High. Whisk flour with 2 tbsp. water; stir into stew. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes or until thickened. Discard bay leaf. Tip: For drama, serve the stew in bread bowls. To make one, hollow out a crusty bun, leaving 1/2-inch thick shell.

Chicken Soup

1 (2 to 3 pound) whole chicken

2 stalks celery, cut in chunks

2 carrots, washed and cut in chunks

1 onion, cut in chunks

2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally

2 onions, finely chopped

2 cubes chicken bouillon, crumbled

1 liter chicken broth

1 pinch dried thyme

1 pinch poultry seasoning

1 pinch dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 bay leaves

Pinch dried parsley

1 (8 ounce) package egg noodles, optional

Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Place first celery, carrot, and onion in pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and place in a bowl until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, strain the cooking liquid, discard the vegetables and place the cooking liquid in a large pot. Place second celery, carrots, onion, bouillon and chicken broth in the pot and let simmer. Season with thyme, poultry seasoning, basil, salt and pepper, bay leaves and parsley.

Bone chicken and cut up meat into bite-size pieces. Return meat to pot. Cook until vegetables are tender and flavours are well- blended, up to 90 minutes.

If adding noodles, stir into pot and cook 10 to 15 minutes more, until noodles are al dente. Serve hot.

For Passover, serve with Passover noodles, Fluffy Egg Drops, or matzo balls.

Matzo Balls for Chicken Soup

2 eggs slightly beaten

2 tablespoons oil or chicken fat

2 tablespoons soup stock or water

1/2 cup matzo meal

1 teaspoon salt

Beat eggs slightly with fork. Add other ingredients, except matzo meal, and mix. Add matzo meal gradually until thick. Stir. Refrigerate for 20 minutes in covered bowl.

Wet hands and form into balls. Drop into bubbling chicken soup or into a large wide pot into which 1 quart water seasoned with 1 tablespoon salt has been added and has come to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes. Yields 4 balls per each 1/4 cup of matzo meal.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.