PASSOVER COOKBOOK: KEYS JEWISH COMMUNITY’S ‘DELICIOUS’ COMFORT FOOD

Chicken soup with matzo balls, seen here, is the ultimate comfort food. BBA PHOTOGRAPHY/Shutterstock

Last Sunday, longtime Keys Jewish Community Center members Susan Gordon and Erica Lieberman Garrett attended an organizational meeting for the synagogue. However, with the productive meeting clocking in at three hours and ending just in time for lunch, the friends were hungry. Or to be completely honest: They were starving. And they drooled while talking about the Jewish comfort food in their “Recipes from the Rock” cookbook.

“My brisket,” Gordon said with a moan. “I’m salivating for my beef brisket. I learned the recipe from my Bubbe.” (Bubbe is the Yiddish word for grandmother.)

“Oy, are we talking about dessert?” Garrett said. “Linda Perloff’s cheesecake. Shout-out to Linda Perloff.”

They spontaneously burst into a rendition of “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Hungry yet? We are too. And that beef brisket recipe is on page 42 of the cookbook.

The friends say that their Jewish comfort food is “yummy and delicious,” the kind that you and your family tuck into with no remorse during the holidays. For example, chicken soup with matzo balls, lovingly prepared and gently simmered for two to three days. Tangy beef borscht with a generous helping of boiled potatoes. Crunchy caramel matzo cookies. And don’t forget: Make at least six to eight appetizers for your guests when organizing holiday meals. It’s only proper, after all.

Lucky for us, all recipes are in the KJCC Cookbook “Recipes from the Rock,” just in time for Passover this weekend. (Look down below for how to order the cookbook.)

During the depths of the pandemic, the KJCC Sisterhood found themselves at wit’s end. With no way to meet in person for their regular monthly group meals, the women decided to create the cookbook together. Based in Tavernier, they are the only synagogue between Homestead and Key West. And the sisterhood craved community. The cookbook was a labor of love created to keep them engaged while the world shut down. Many recipes incorporated in this cookbook are from their Shabbat and holiday dinners. 

“When we sit down together it feels like home,” said Garrett. “In the Keys we don’t have our immediate family. Many in our Sisterhood have become widows, and we’re here for each other. We’re a very close knit group. We encourage women to come.”

“It’s a true sisterhood,” added Gordon.

A special section in their cookbook is devoted to Passover, the holiday honoring God and celebrating the Hebrews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt. 

“And this year, Passover has a special meaning,” said Gordon. “We feel for the sadness of the people in the Ukraine. We have a lot of family ancestors originally from Poland and Russia. More than ever, we are thinking of peace.”

“But the regular dinners throughout the year are important for us because we have no access to Jewish food in most of the Keys – no takeout,” said Garrett. “And all who are hungry are welcome to come and eat at our dinners.”

Meanwhile, this weekend, we’ll be cooking the chicken with matzo ball soup. B’tayavon (good appetite), everyone.

For more information about joining KJCC or its sisterhood, go to keysjewishcenter.com. To buy the “Recipes from the Rock” KJCC Sisterhood’s cookbook, call Garrett at 305-853-1003.

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Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines; Elle.com; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.