Peter Berley doesn’t just host a seder, he hosts an entire Passover weekend for family and friends at his North Fork Kitchen and Garden. Every year, he and his make-up artist daughter, Kayla Jo, fire-up the wood burning oven, grind their own spelt and kamut flour, knead their own dough and make homemade matzoh for the holiday. This is no small feat, but what do you expect from a man with his own wood burning oven in his kitchen, and an entire garden bed dedicated to his homemade kimchi?
Peter invited me up to his home in the North Fork to crash this father-daughter bonding ritual. If you have not spent time in this region, I highly recommend it. The winding roads are dotted with wineries, biodynamic and organic farms, all a stone’s throw from the ocean. This is where Peter lives, but also where he teaches weekend-long workshops on fermentation, bread baking and tofu-making.
Though it took the better part of the morning to prepare the matzoh dough, once the baking began, the pace accelerated by necessity. Because matzoh is defined by its unleavened quality, the mixed dough cannot sit for more than 18 minutes and still be considered kosher. Once the grains mix with water, the fermentation process is initiated, and the matzoh becomes just another layman’s flatbread. Matzoh is the, “bread of our affliction,” but man, was Peter’s version light and airy, and irresistible when coated with a generous smear of farm-fresh butter and sea salt.
On my way out (after escorting me to the local winery and the dairy farm to pick up raw milk and fresh eggs), Peter gave me a copy of his book The Flexitarian Table, the product of 30 years of professional cooking. So, today I am making a salad from that book, and posting the pictures of our busy day together.
It is always uplifting to spend time with someone who has worked hard for all that has he has — a family that collaborates willingly in the kitchen, an enduring passion for his work, three published cookbooks and a kitchen adorned in Spanish tile.