By Bill Daley, Tribune Newspapers
March 28, 2012
The Passover story of the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt resonates particularly strongly for people like Wolfgang "Wolfie" Rauner who escaped Nazi persecution for a new life in the United States.
Rauner, 83, arrived here June 21, 1941, from Nazi-occupied Luxembourg, where his German Jewish family had fled in the years before World War II. His family settled in New York; today he's a resident of the Fresh Meadows neighborhood in Queens.
"We were freed," he said simply when asked why Passover is so special. "We were the freed ones."
Every year at Passover, he makes his mother's matzo balls and remembers. He shares his story, and the recipe, in an unusual cookbook, "Recipes Remembered."
Author June Feiss Hersh movingly profiles Holocaust survivors and their families and shares their recipes.
"I wanted to preserve these stories, preserve these food memories, preserve the legacy of this remarkable community," Hersh said in an interview, noting these recipes held memories of childhood and happier times.
Yet "Recipes Remembered" is not a sad book; far from it.
"This community dusted themselves off and turned tragedy into triumph," Hersh stressed. "It was their best revenge, the best way of saying, 'I am going to have a good life.' They almost felt like it was an obligation. One woman, a survivor, told me, 'No one likes a bitter person.'"
In the book, Hersh describes the survivors she interviewed as "children of the Holocaust, thrown from comfort to chaos." Whether imprisoned in a death camp, forced into hiding, or able to escape to safety, all are survivors, she wrote, because "they survived the unimaginable and their lives were forever changed." Food was a way they could talk of their lives and share memories.
Rauner is not really surprised that "Recipe Remembered" has proven to be a popular book, with all proceeds going to the Museum of Jewish Heritage (mjhnyc.org), "a living memorial to the Holocaust" in New York City.
"It combines interesting history with food," he said. "Any time you combine anything with food, you've got a story."
"Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival" By June Feiss Hersh (Ruder Finn Press, $36)
Wolfie Rauner's matzo dumplings (Kloesse)
Prep: 40 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes per batch
Makes: 37 dumplings
Note: Wolfgang "Wolfie" Rauner's recipe from "Recipes Remembered." He serves them boiled, as was his mother's family's custom, and fried, as was the tradition in his father's family. Although Rauner calls them matzo balls, he notes they are sturdier than the light, fluffy version many people are familiar with, which may be why they're called kloesse, dumplings, in the book. One caveat: Rauner's recipe calls for soaking the matzo in water before using. There are varying opinions about eating "gebrokts," fully-baked matzo that has come in contact with water, during Passover. Follow the rules and traditions of your particular faith community.
2 tablespoons chicken fat or vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
4 sheets matzo, broken into small jigsaw puzzle-like pieces
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped curly parsley
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 to 1 1/4 cups matzo meal (depending on cooking method)
1 cup oil for frying or broth or salted water for boiling
1. Heat the chicken fat or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring, until brown but not burnt, about 15 minutes. While the onions cook, soak the broken matzo in a bowl filled with cold water, 10 minutes. Drain; squeeze the water from the matzo. Let them sit between two pieces of paper towel to absorb residual water. Stir the matzo into the cooked onions; cook over low heat until the mixture is dry, about 5 minutes.
2. Spoon the mixture into a bowl; cool, 5 minutes. Stir in eggs, parsley, ginger, salt and pepper; combine the mixture thoroughly, using a wooden spoon or your hands. The mixture may look liquidy but will soak up egg as it sits. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate, at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.
3. To serve boiled, heat a large pot of salted water or broth to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, take the matzo mixture from the refrigerator. Add 1/2 cup matzo meal to the matzo ball mixture. Roll into 1-inch balls. (Lightly oiling your hands will make shaping easier.) Drop the balls into the boiling liquid; reduce the heat to medium. Boil until the balls fluff up and rise to the surface, about 15 minutes. Eat with soup or serve with a helping of fried onions on top.
4. To serve fried, add 1/4 cup matzo meal to the matzo mixture. Sprinkle 1 cup matzo meal on a flat plate. Roll the matzo mixture into 1-inch balls (again, lightly oiled hands will help in the shaping), then roll the balls in the matzo meal crumbs for extra crunch on the outside. Refrigerate the balls until ready to fry. Heat 1 cup oil for frying in a deep skillet over medium heat. Place the matzo balls in a skillet and brown on all sides for about 5 minutes . When done, each ball should be brown and crisp on the outside, soft inside. Drain on a paper towel; eat as a side dish.
Per dumpling (for fried version): 55 calories, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 17 mg cholesterol, 7 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 107 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
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