Tasty Tradition and Kosher Wines for Passover
A flavorful variation on tzimmes and brisket, plus 16 recently rated kosher wines from Israel
There are some holidays for which the cook and host may take great liberties and get creative, for which there are no traditionally prescribed meals. The Jewish holiday of Passover, and its attendant Seder meal, is not one of these holidays at which free association is encouraged, in part because strict rules govern what can and cannot be consumed during the holiday's weeklong observance, which begins this year at sundown on Friday, April 6. With several generations often gathering for the first and second nights of the holiday, tradition reigns—from the symbolic foods of the Seder plate to the main course and flourless desserts. But a chef seeking to broaden the family repertoire of recipes can find ways to add variety while working within the rules.
Moses Wendel, chef and owner of Pardes kosher restuarant in Brooklyn, N.Y., shared a recipe for his take on tzimmes, which is traditionally a side dish of carrots and sweet potatoes made sweeter with honey and dried fruit. Wendel transforms it into a main dish by first braising brisket in red wine, honey and vinegar, then adding sweet potatoes and dates to the braising liquid, with a bit of jalapeño pepper, freshly squeezed orange juice and grated horseradish layered on for contrast. "This recipe has become a staple of our family Seder table," said Wendel's wife, Shana. "The ingredients are very basic, but work so well together."
Kosher wines are, of course, another important part of the holiday table, and here too the palette of styles and grape varieties has expanded, so that any wine lover should be able to find something to enjoy with their holiday meal. See below for a list of recently rated red and white kosher wines from Israel, from juicy Sauvignon Blancs and buttery Chardonnays to luscious Merlots and concentrated Cabernets.
Braised Brisket Tzimmes
For the brisket:
• 5-pound beef brisket
• Kosher salt to taste
• 2 bottles kosher red wine
• 20 canned plum tomatoes, pureed
• 1 cup honey
• 1/4 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
• 4 to 5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
• 1 cup dried dates, pitted and diced
• 2 jalepeño peppers, seeded and diced
• Freshly squeezed juice of 2 oranges
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• Freshly grated horseradish, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
2. Season the meat with the salt and transfer it to a large roasting pan. Stir together the red wine, tomatoes, honey and vinegar and add them to the pan with the meat. Cover the whole pan with a layer of plastic wrap, then a layer of foil, and cook in the oven for 3 1/2 hours.
3. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the cover. Discard the plastic but retain the foil. Add the sweet potatoes, dates and peppers to the pan, cover loosely with foil and return to the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and stir the orange juice into the sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust with salt and pepper if desired.
4. Serve the meat in chunks with the sauce and sweet potatoes, garnished if desired with horseradish. Serves 8 to 10.
RECOMMENDED KOSHER WINES FROM ISRAEL
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More kosher wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
THE CAVE Galilee 2007 Score: 90 | $75
Rich and well-crafted, with plenty of lively spicy notes, including ginger and cardamom, to the delicate plum, cherry and boysenberry flavors. The luscious finish features lots of licorice snap, with hints of cocoa. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Kosher. Drink now. 300 cases imported. —K.M.
GOLAN HEIGHTS WINERY Chardonnay Galilee Yarden 2009 Score: 89 | $18
A buttery style, with good concentration and focus to the apple tart, ripe pear and peach cobbler flavors. Smooth and spicy on the lush finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2016. 1,200 cases imported. —K.M.
SEGAL'S Chardonnay Galilee Heights Special Reserve 2009 Score: 89 | $17
Crisp and well-structured, with plenty of lemon curd and spiced apple flavors that are long and fresh. Buttery notes envelop the finish, which is accented by custard and hints of light smoke. Kosher. Drink now through 2017. 1,000 cases imported. —K.M.
BARKAN Merlot Galil Reserve 2007 Score: 88 | $25
There's plenty of juiciness in this ripe red, which features black licoriceñinfused flavors of plum pudding, dark chocolate and wild herbs, with a minerally finish. Kosher. Drink now. 750 cases imported. —K.M.
BINYAMINA Cabernet Sauvignon-Petit Verdot Galilee Yogev 2009 Score: 88 | $15
Mouthfilling, with firm, fresh and flavorful notes of boysenberry, dried currant and red plum. Offers lots juiciness and spice midpalate, with a long finish of vanilla and milk chocolate. Kosher. Drink now through 2015. 1,000 cases imported. —K.M.
DALTÔN Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Cabernet Franc Upper Galilee Alma 2009 Score: 88 | $26
A lively red blend that has a fresh juiciness to its red plum, currant and boysenberry flavors, which feature some meaty notes. Firm finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2015. 4,000 cases made. —K.M.
PSAGOT Cabernet Sauvignon Judean Hills 2009 Score: 88 | $33
There's good density and concentration to the lip-smacking flavors of dark plum, cherry and raspberry that are accented by plenty of chocolate notes. Features silky tannins on the finish, with some notes of slate. Kosher. Drink now through 2016. 800 cases imported. —K.M.
TEPERBERG Cabernet Sauvignon Samson 2010 Score: 88 | $12
Offers aromas of fresh red berries, with flavors to match and a supple array of floral and spice notes. Lively, with plenty of fresh acidity and intense blueberry notes. Features hints of sandalwood on the finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2015. 5,000 cases made. —K.M.
DALTÔN Sauvignon Blanc Upper Galilee Reserve 2010 Score: 87 | $18
Juicy and spicy, with lots of red peach flavors that are accented by savory herbal notes. Fresh finish. Kosher. Drink now. 2,500 cases made. —K.M.
GALIL MOUNTAIN Galilee Yiron 2009 Score: 87 | $22
There's good balance, power and richness to the dried berry flavors, which are flanked by savory and mineral notes. The muscular finish features plenty of tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Kosher. Drink now. 2,000 cases imported. —K.M.
TEPERBERG Merlot Samson 2010 Score: 87 | $12
Exuberantly fruity, with aromas and flavors of boysenberry and dark cherry that show lots of luscious milk chocolate notes. The flavors linger on the lively finish. Kosher. Drink now. 5,000 cases made. —K.M.
CARMEL Cabernet Sauvignon Upper Galilee Appellation 2006 Score: 86 | $20
Medium-bodied, with olive and licorice notes to the dried dark plum and spiced cherry flavors. Tar and mocha linger on the finish. Kosher. Drink now. 800 cases imported. —K.M.
DALTÔN Chardonnay-Viognier Galilee Alma 2010 Score: 86 | $20
Ripe and lush, with plenty of buttery notes to the ripe apple and tropical fruit flavors. Spicy finish. Kosher. Drink now. 1,000 cases made. —K.M.
BARKAN Merlot-Argaman Dan Classic 2010 Score: 85 | $12
Medium-bodied, with cinnamon and spice accenting dried plum and berry flavors. Supple finish. Kosher. Drink now. 1,200 cases imported. —K.M.
SEGAL'S Merlot-Cabernet Franc-Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Heights Fusion 2010 Score: 85 | $15
Firm, with dried red fruit flavors that feature herbal and minerally notes. Fresh and juicy on the finish. Kosher. Drink now. 1,500 cases imported. —K.M.
TEPERBERG Sauvignon Blanc Shomron Terra 2010 Score: 85 | $18
Medium-bodied, with ripe citrus and pineapple flavors that are well-spiced. Features light smoky notes on the finish. Kosher. Drink now. 2,500 cases made. —K.M.