(April 5, 2019 / JNS) For American Jews, observant or secular, Passover is a big deal. In fact according to a Pew Report, almost 70 percent American Jews attend a Passover seder. It’s a time when friends and family come together to read the Haggadah and hear the ancient story of the Hebrews’ flight from Egyptian slavery to freedom.
Of course, food is another highlight of the multicourse meal. In fact, the entire eight-day celebration (seven days in Israel), which begins on the night of April 19, revolves around specific foods and the prohibitions around leaven. But today, eating remains less of an issue than ever before. There are literally thousands of types of kosher-for-Passover food and wine (gluten-free, lactose-free, nut-free, whole-grain), though items disappear quickly from supermarket shelves. Buy necessary staples and products when you see them.
Though matzah takes the place of bread during Passover, there’s no need to eat it with every dish. Although Ashkenazi Passover dishes are heavy on matzah, eggs and dairy products, which were easily available in Eastern Europe, these traditional dishes can be lightened with fresh fruits and vegetables, in tune with contemporary dietary recommendations. In contrast, Sephardic Passover dishes are light and lively, heavy on fresh produce, exotic spices and zesty seasonings—all part of the ancient Mediterranean diet.
At the Hofman house, the first seder features an Ashkenazi meal with dishes that have been adapted to add generous amounts of fruits and vegetables. The second night features a Sephardic meal, definitely more appealing to the diet-conscious. Consider serving fish along with the traditional brisket or chicken. Instead of salmon, look for steelhead trout. It looks an awful lot like salmon, but it’s not; it’s softer and flakier. Don’t try to divide it into neat portions; just spoon into pieces. Native to Alaska and the West coast, it’s one of the healthier types of fish with plenty of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Just make sure you buy farm-raised, as wild steelhead is an endangered species, depending on where it’s from.
The recipes below do not include kitniyot (legumes such as seeds such as rice, corn, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, peas and lentils), which are not consumed by Ashkenazi Jews during the holiday. Sephardic Jews do maintain their tradition of eating rice.
Sephardic Apricot-Cherry Charoset (Pareve)
Makes 2–2 ½ cups
*Use kitchen scissors to cut up dried fruits.
*May be prepared a week ahead.
*Place in serving bowl, cover tightly with saran wrap and refrigerate.
1 cup dried apricots, cut up
¼ cup dried cherries
3 large dried peaches (about 4 ounces) cut in chunks
¼ cup walnuts or pecans
2 tablespoons packed fresh mint leaves
3-4 tablespoons sweet wine
2 tablespoons honey or to taste
Place dried fruits in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes or so to soften. Drain well.
Place in a food processor and pulse to chop coarsely.
Add the nuts, mint, 3 tablespoons wine and honey. Process to chop finely. Transfer to a bowl. Add more honey or wine as desired.
Serve at room temperature.
Springtime Vegetable Soup (Pareve)
Makes 6-8 servings
Ingredient list may seem long, but it’s easy with pre-prepared items.
*Use a good packaged vegetarian broth.
*Zucchini is available precut in strips or use the shredding attachment in food processor.
*Shredded carrots available in market.
*Prepare 1-2 days ahead, cover and refrigerate.
*May substitute packaged kosher chicken broth for vegetarian to make a meat soup.
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium sweet onion, sliced thinly
1 medium green zucchini (about 1½ cups), cut julienne
1 medium yellow zucchini (about 1½ cups), cut julienne
3 medium tomatoes, snipped coarsely
1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup grated parsnip
¼ cup snipped fresh dill, packed
¼ cup snipped fresh parsley, packed
6-7 cups vegetarian broth
2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning or to taste
In large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add all the remaining ingredients. Bring to boil.
Reduce to simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until veggies are softened.
Sweet and Zesty Passover Kugel (Pareve)
Packed with fruits and veggies, this is a variation of a much-requested recipe.
*Chop potatoes and apple in food processor.
*Wrap thawed spinach in double layer of paper towels to squeeze dry.
*Zap frozen orange juice concentrate for 10-15 seconds in microwave to thaw.
*May be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated.
*Bake as in recipe below.
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut in chunks
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and cut in chunks
4 ounces (1 stick), plus 2 tablespoons margarine, melted
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1½ cups bagged shredded carrots
½ cup canned crushed pineapple, well-drained
½ cup raisins
½ cup matzah meal
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup frozen orange-juice concentrate, thawed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Coarsely chop the potatoes and apples in the food processor. In a large bowl, place potatoes, apples, about 1 stick melted margarine and all remaining ingredients. Stir to mix well.
Spoon into prepared baking dish. Drizzle with remaining margarine.
Bake in preheated oven for 1¼ hours, or until firm and nicely browned. If browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
‘Za’atar’ Baked Steelhead Trout (Pareve)
*Line baking pan with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.
*Use fresh lemon, not bottled.
2-2½ pound fillet steelhead trout
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon za’atar
2 tablespoons finely snipped parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place steelhead trout fillet on prepared baking pan.
Sprinkle all over with lemon juice, salt, pepper and za’atar.
Bake in preheated oven for 18 minutes. Cooked when a knife is inserted and flakes are opaque. Before serving, sprinkle with parsley.
Serve hot, warm or even at room temperature.
Sweet Fruit Ratatouille (Pareve)
1¼ cups pineapple or apricot preserves
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon potato starch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 (15-ounce) cans tangerine sections, drained
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut in 1-inch cubes
1 cup blueberries
¼ cup pistachio halves or slivered almonds (optional)
*Substitute 3 cups canned drained pineapple for fresh.
*May be prepared 1-2 days ahead and refrigerated.
*If made ahead, scatter pistachios over top just before serving.
*Substitute slivered almonds or other nuts for pistachios.
In large saucepan over medium heat, stir together the preserves, orange juice, potato starch and cinnamon. Stir constantly until melted and combined.
Bring to boil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly
Remove from heat. Fold in the tangerines, pineapple and blueberries. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Just before serving, scatter pistachios or slivered almonds over top.
Serve at room temperature.