I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Don’t freak out about what to eat during Pesach. Unless bread and pasta make up your entire diet, even the more restrictive Pesach rules leave plenty of choices.
Start by NOT over cooking for your Seders. Prepare just enough for those two nights and maybe a little extra for lunches, so you won’t end up eating the same leftovers all week. For the rest of the holiday, keep it fresh. Avoid prepared and packaged foods that often contain hidden chametz, like corn syrup and vinegar (made from wheat). Prepare simple meals that include fresh meat, chicken, fish, and eggs plus plenty of fresh produce. During the week throw in a few Pesach specific dishes that you make only once a year.
My family enjoys an extended Seder filled with stories, questions and discussion, teaching and learning, and new content. This year our theme is Resilience, a concept that is particularly relevant because of the pandemic. The Passover story, about our ancestors who were ripped from the life they knew, bitter though it was, and thrown into forty years of wandering in the desert, has much to teach us about resilience.
But we get hungry during the telling, so I serve a generous selection of appetizers that we start eating right after kiddush for the first glass of wine. In fact, we eat so much during our long seder that after the egg, fish, and soup we go straight to dessert!
Here’s my menu. We begin with Ruth’s Mix, a dish of raisins, almonds and chocolate chips which reminds us to appreciate diversity. Each element of the mix is tasty by itself, but together they create something new and even more delicious. It reminds us that everyone has something unique to offer that enriches the whole community.
Appetizers include a Relish Tray with Israeli pickles and olives plus a selection of raw vegetables, Mini Matzo-Meal Bagels that we can eat before we say ha motzi, Chopped Liver, Roasted Pepper Salad, Asparagus with Orange Vinaigrette, Pickled Beets, Facon Wrapped Dates, and Deviled Eggs.
When it’s time for Shulchan Aruch, the main meal, we’ll have Gefilte Fish with Horseradish Sauce, Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls and Royal Custard, and a family favorite, Meatballs and Weenies, a hybrid dish we borrowed from New Jersey friends many years ago.
Dessert will be Sponge Cake with Orange Sauce (Thank You Zell Schulman) and Chocolate Paté.
Now for the rest of the week. Breakfast is usually plain yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh fruit or Israeli salad. I’ll probably make matzo pancakes one morning.
Matzo Brei will happen for lunch at some point. Once we finish the Gefilte Fish and Chopped Liver, other lunches will be Flanken from the soup with horseradish, Chicken Salad made from the soup chicken and tuna salad.
If you have dried fruit left over from making charoset, stew up a thick compote to have for dessert in the evenings with a piece of matzo.
You need six dinners, Monday through Saturday. If you’re eating a heavier Seder meal than my family, Monday is a good night to lighten things up with a big, fresh salad for dinner. Start with a mix of greens – arugula, spinach, Rocket mix, butter lettuce. Add fresh raw veggies of your choice, including the Relish Tray leftovers. I’ll also add what’s left of my pepper salad, asparagus, and pickled beets. Toss in a handful of cheese – a good Israeli feta is an excellent choice – top with the Toasted Matzo Farfel “croutons” and homemade salad dressing – a simple combination of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
On Tuesday, stay light with a simple pan seared piece of fish, twice baked potato, sautéed spinach, and roasted cherry tomatoes. If the weather is nice enough, throw a steak on the grill Wednesday, if it’s not, sear the steak in a hot pan and finish it in the oven. Serve with a variety of grilled or roasted veggies – mushrooms, zucchini, and onions, for example, or whatever your family likes. Homemade French fries or roasted potatoes round out this menu. Thursday return to a vegetarian or dairy meal. Shakshukah is simple to make and hearty. Or take a break from cooking and enjoy a simple cheese plate with nuts, fruit, and a bottle of wine.
For Shabbat and Yom Tov on Friday, make a simple roasted chicken (or two), rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stuffed with a cut-up lemon and/or orange. On the side, add a matzo farfel kugel with mushrooms and onions along with steamed or roasted asparagus. Or turn the asparagus into a bright green soup as a starter and roast some organic multi-colored carrots for the side. This simple menu leaves time to bake another sponge cake for dessert.
Smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers and tomato makes lovely Shabbat lunch; cold chicken with horseradish and a green salad make a quick supper later on.
Wishing you and your family a Zeisen Pesach and Chag Sameach!
Toasted Matzo Farfel
Use these crunchy flavor bombs as croutons in salad or soup or to munch as a salty snack.
• 3 C farfel
• 2 TBSP oil
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 TBSP dried herbs or seasoning mix of your choice
• Salt & pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Toss all ingredients together until combined.
3. Spread farfel on parchment-lined baking sheets in a single layer.
4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown, turning every 5 minutes.
Cool; then store in airtight container.
Anita Finkel’s Meatballs and Weenies
We shared more than 20 seders with the Finkel Family in New Jersey. While Ed scoured the internet for song parodies & printed each one on different colored paper, Anita made mountains of Meatballs and Weenies which she served as an appetizer to keep everyone from getting cranky before the meal. They have one daughter who doesn’t like ground beef, so Anita added hot dogs to this meatball recipe. Everybody was happy. It started as a Pesach dish, but popular demand brought it to every holiday table at their house.
For the Meatballs
• 2 LBs ground beef (or half ground turkey)
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• Salt & pepper
• 1 egg
• ¼ C matzo meal
For the Sauce
• 2 x 14 oz cans cranberry sauce (not jellied)
• 15 oz can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• 1 package hot dogs, each cut into 8 pieces each
Make the Sauce
1. Dump the cranberry & tomato sauce in a large pot; add the cinnamon.
2. Use an immersion blender to combine into a smooth sauce.
3. Turn to medium heat, bring to a boil; turn down to simmer. Make sure it doesn’t boil too hard or burn.
Make the Meatballs
4. In a large bowl, use your hands to mix all the ingredients together.
5. When the sauce is bubbling gently, start rolling small meatballs – about 1 inch each. Drop them into the sauce carefully as you go, using a rubber spatula to gently move them around as you add more and more. Be careful not to break them.
6. Cook the meatballs for about 10 to 15 minutes, until they are solid on the outside and won’t break.
7. Gently add the hot dogs to the pot; using the rubber spatula to move them around and combine.
8. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through and flavors are combined.
A small slice of this rich chocolate is enough. Serve with simple sponge cake or fruit. I use a tea box for the mold because I don’t have anything the right size in my Pesach dishes.
• 12 oz bag parve chocolate chips
• 5 TBSP coconut oil
• 1/3 C very strong fruit tea
• 2 egg yolks
• ¼ C sugar
1. Put 2 fruit tea bags in 1 cup of boiled water; steep until dark in color and very strong.
2. Cool tea.
3. When tea is cool, in a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 C tea, egg yolks & sugar for a full 2 minutes, until foamy. (Add water to the rest of the tea to dilute it to drinkable strength.)
4. Combine coconut oil and chocolate in glass bowl.
5. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir, then microwave again for another minute. Stir together until smooth.
6. Line an empty tea box with enough plastic wrap that it hangs over the sides.
7. Add tea mixture to chocolate; use a fork to combine.
8. Pour mixture into tea box. Wrap extra plastic over the top. Wrap the whole box in foil to make sure it holds its shape. Refrigerate overnight.
9. To serve, remove from box and slice thin, and dust with powdered sugar. To get a nice slice, dip your knife into boiling water, start a slice, then repeat until you get all the way through.
Powdered sugar for serving
If you have questions about food, email Gayle at food@americanisraelite. com.