This recipe and story first appeared in the March 18, 2013 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine.
I was a year out of seminary when the first of my high school friends got engaged, and I quickly became acquainted with the exciting world of l’chaims, vorts, bridal showers, and gift registries.
The girls from our class with older sisters were already educated in these matters, and a couple of them joined forces to plan the kallah’s shower. I got a poem in the mail one day, printed on brightly colored stationary, inviting me to the party and asking for a contribution of $20 towards the group gifts. And so began my fascination (okay, borderline obsession) with Bed, Bath & Beyond and its bridal registries.
As each subsequent friend became engaged, I’d eagerly scout out her registry, checking the various items’ prices to decide whether I should join the group gift effort or go out on a limb and purchase a separate gift. I was always interested in seeing which china pattern a friend had chosen for her Shabbos table, which baking supplies she hoped would fill her new cabinets, and which color scheme she wanted in her bathrooms. Part of this was just a personality thing — I’m very detail-oriented and love making lists, so checking out my friends’ “lists” was fun for me.
The other part, of course, was that I couldn’t wait until it was my turn. I truly could not imagine anything more exciting than trouping through Bed, Bath & Beyond with my chasan to choose items for our home. Never mind that I was nowhere near having a chasan — I knew with certainty that, whoever he would be, we would register at Bed, Bath & Beyond.
I never did get my bridal registry. Instead, my husband and I met and married in Israel, where registries haven’t really caught on and aren’t part of the wedding culture. When we flew back to North America to meet each other’s families and have a vort in each city, we also did a lot of shopping (courtesy of our engagement gifts). We bought pots and pans, bathroom towels, bed linens, Rubbermaid containers, lots of Pyrex, and a pretty set of Corelle dishes for weekdays. And yes, we had a lot of fun. But we also completely forgot about Pesach.
For many (maybe even most) young couples, making Pesach is something that won’t be on the horizon for a good five, maybe 10 years. They’ll go to her parents, his parents, or both, even when they have several kids, and even when the kids are no longer babies and toddlers. But we were going to live across the ocean from our parents, with no plans to travel back for yom tov. It would have made a lot of sense to shop for Pesach when we shopped for our year-round things. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Who thinks about Pesach in July? Not us.
When our first married Pesach rolled around, we realized that we had absolutely nothing with which to make it. There were other yom tov expenses (a sink insert and copious amounts of 50-micron foil come to mind), so we chose to buy only the bare necessities for cooking: a mixing bowl, a long-handled spoon, one glass casserole dish, a set of plastic measuring cups, a cheap knife, and a cutting board. We had recently received a terrific nonstick skillet as a gift, and thankfully had the foresight to set it aside for Pesach. But that was pretty much it.
That chag became an interesting exercise in genuinely appreciating what I had while still making incessant lists of things that I wished I had. I don’t need the biggest, best equipment for Pesach. But it’s hard to go from a fully stocked kitchen to a handful of cheap replacements.
The next spring, my husband and I treated ourselves to a few more Pesach items – our first pot (in pink – my choice), a much better knife, and a hand grater to tide me over until the year we invest in a Pesachdik food processor. With some help from my in-laws, we also got two beautiful serving dishes for our yom tov meals. I think I was more excited over those pieces than I was over all of the dishes we got in one fell swoop as wedding presents.
With each Pesach season, we’ll reevaluate and pick up a few more things for our collection, and in some ways, I think that’s better than getting it all at once. Delayed gratification, patience, and resourcefulness can’t be bad, right? Toning down the materialism also fits in perfectly with a yom tov that celebrates both our physical and spiritual freedom.
But don’t get me wrong. If you sent me a food processor a few years early, I wouldn’t turn it away.
This recipe for balsamic-roasted mushrooms can be made with even the most basic equipment, making it a truly equal-opportunity side dish that works just as well at a yom tov meal as it does on chol hamoed.
Although you’ll need to steep the lemon and thyme in oil the night before you want to cook, this is a dish that requires very little prep work. Add balsamic vinegar to your grocery list this Pesach, and drizzle it into salad dressings and over every vegetable you roast.
These mushrooms need only be the beginning.
One year ago: Utterly perfect potato kugel
Yield: 4-6 servings
- ½ lemon
- 1 heaping tsp dried thyme
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 (6 oz) cartons button mushrooms
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
1. The night before, prepare the infused olive oil: Slice the half-lemon into two equal wedges. Place them in a small dish, sprinkle with thyme, and pour olive oil over the top. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.
2. The next day, position the oven rack in the top third of the oven and preheat to 400 F (200 C). Spread mushrooms in a single layer in a baking dish. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and lemon-infused oil, then sprinkle with garlic, salt, and pepper.
3. Roast for 20 minutes. Raise the temperature to 425 F (220 C). Remove the dish from the oven to flip mushrooms over, then return to oven and roast an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.