4 Cups of Wine and 4 Days to Go…

4 cups of wineSo is it a coincidence that we drink 4 cups of wine at the Passover Seder, and we have 4 days to go until the holiday begins?! No, it’s not (I thought, 4 days… what else is 4 to do with Passover, ah hah! a link!). So while there is no mystical reason behind today’s syncing of numbers, there are reasons behind the 4 cups of wine.

Firstly, wine is considered a kingly beverage, and it is an appropriate drink for the holiday in which we celebrate our freedom from slavery and Egypt. As for the number four? There are several different explanations that the Scholars have passed down to us (again, thank you Chabad.org!)

  • When promising to deliver the Jews from Egyptian slavery, G‑d used four terms to describe the redemption (Exodus 6:6-8): a) “I shall take you out…” b) “I shall rescue you…” c) “I shall redeem you…” d) “I shall bring you…”
  • We were liberated from Pharaoh’s four evil decrees: a) Slavery b) The ordered murder of all male progeny by the Hebrew midwives c) The drowning of all Hebrew boys in the Nile by Egyptians d) The decree ordering the Israelites to collect their own straw for use in their brick production.
  • The four cups symbolize our freedom from our four exiles: The Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek exiles, and our current exile which we hope to be rid of very soon with the coming of Moshiach.
  • The words “cup of wine” are mentioned four times in Pharaoh’s butler‘s dream (Genesis 40:11-13). According to the Midrash, these cups of wine alluded to the Israelites’ liberation.

Yes, for those of you who are counting, that was 4 reasons for the 4 cups. What can I say, I’m on a roll!

* photo credit to Steve Greenberg. You can check out his website at www.greenberg-art.com.

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Italian Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Sausage and PeppersIngredients:

8 (4 ounce) links sweet Italian sausage or other sweet/mild sausage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 (796ml) can of diced or crushed tomatoes
⅓ cup wine or beer
½ tablespoon of corn starch

Directions:

In a large pot, add the canned tomatoes and herbs, then cook on low while preparing the remaining ingredients. Place the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet, and slice. Add the sliced sausage and any drippings to the pot with the tomatoes.

Add the oil to the same skillet that you used for the sausages. Stir in the onions and garlic, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peppers, and then stir in the wine/beer. Continue to cook and stir until peppers and onions are tender.

Once tender, add the vegetables to the pot with the tomatoes and sausages. Let everything simmer on low for an hour. If you find that the sauce is a bit too watery, take about 3 tablespoons of liquid from the pot and mix it with the cornstarch. Once dissolved, add this cornstarch slurry back to the pot. It will thicken up the sauce. Serve hot.

Osso Bucco

Osso Bucco 1 Ingredients:

6 veal/beef shank cross cuts, about 1 ½ inch thick
salt and pepper
flour for dredging, as needed
olive oil, as needed
3 cups onion, diced
1 ½ cups carrots, diced small
1 ½ cups celery, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (156ml) can tomato paste
2 ¼ cups dry wine
1 ½ litres chicken or beef stock
sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary*
cornstarch (optional)

Directions:

Trim the veal/beef shanks, and season them with salt and pepper, then dredge through the flour, shaking off any excess flour. Heat oil in a large pot and sear the meat to a deep brown colour, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Due to the amount of meat you are browning, you may have to do this in batches. Remove the meat and keep separate.

Put the onions in the pot and stir, until golden brown. You can add a little more oil if needed to keep the onions from burning, but you do not want a lot of oil in the pot. Add carrots, celery and garlic, and sauté stirring frequently, cooking for 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it turns a deeper colour and gives off a sweeter aroma, about 1 minute.

Deglaze the pan with wine, and reduce liquid by half. At this point, most likely your pot will not be large enough to fit all of the meat and vegetable mixture/sauce, so I often transfer everything to a large casserole dish or aluminum pan. Pouring about half of the vegetable mixture down first, then the meat in a single layer, then topping with the rest of the vegetable mixture. At this point you want to add enough stock to cover the meat by ⅔. Add the sprigs of herbs and cover the dish and put in a 350 degree oven, letting it braise for 2 – 2 ½ hours, until tender.

Classically, at this point, you would remove the herbs and the meat from the pan, and then strain the sauce, only leaving the liquid behind to be thickened with some cornstarch and served with the meat. In my household, vegetables are NEVER put aside! We do not strain the liquid, but serve it as an accompaniment to the meat, often on top of wide egg noodles. Should you wish the actual liquid of the sauce to be thicker, you can separate some and thicken it with cornstarch to serve as an almost gravy. Any way you serve it, you must enjoy!

* to learn how to clean rosemary and thyme properly, click here.