Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday, and although cooking for Passover requires a lot of preparation, I look forward to it each year. It is a time when our family and close friends join together to share thoughts and exchange ideas as we participate in the seder.
I have a regular routine that begins my preparation for the Passover holiday. The first thing I do is check last year's guest list with my husband, so we won't leave anyone out, and then we add friends who will be alone during the holiday. Next, I review my files that are filled with Passover recipes and select the dishes I want to prepare for our seders.
Over the years we have added Passover food traditions from other cultures that are different then what we normally serve, and they have become an important part of our seder menu.
In the past we traditionally dipped sliced spring onions in salt water as the first vegetable of the season, and now we also serve steamed new potatoes dipped in salt.
The children love the idea of including scallions, a symbolic food that the Sephardic Jews use during their seder. They represent the whips used to beat the Jews when they were slaves in Egypt. The children reenact this event during the seder by going around the table and gently hitting the participants with the raw scallions.
The charoset, bitter herbs and matzah are part of the Passover meal, and during our Seder we taste several types of charoset from around the world. Each guest is served a plate with six different charoset and we identify the country that each represents. Oh yes, the next day I roll the leftover charoset into balls and dip them in chocolate to serve as a special treat during the remaining days of Passover.
Dinner usually begins with homemade gefilte fish, but this year I plan on making a Gefilte Fish Terrine.
It is not as time-consuming to make, and the taste is the same. It is baked the oven, in a mold, and does not require poaching in a fish stock.
This is followed by an intensely flavored chicken soup with matzah balls, and it is the one dish I cannot change because it is everyone's favorite.
Roast turkey is the main course, as well as chicken breasts that are filled with Grandma Molly's Vegetable Stuffing, rolled and baked. The combination of sautéed vegetables, matzah meal and sweet raisins is delicious, and I always double the recipe, and bake the remainder of the stuffing in a casserole, because there is never enough to satisfy everyone. The glazed apple slices are easy to make and are a perfect accompaniment to serve with the chicken and turkey.
Dinner is always served buffet style and everyone helps themselves to their favorite Passover dishes.
For dessert, the table is set with an assortment of sponge cakes, cookies and chocolate-covered nuts and fruit. The walnut torte sponge cake looks extra-special by simply layering it with a preserve filling and then spooning a chocolate glaze on top.
Wine is an important part of the seder. In the past, sweet Concord grape wine was always served during Passover, but today dry Passover wines have gained in popularity, and the availability, and varieties are remarkable. These wines come from California, France, Italy and Israel, and, at our seder, we provide both sweet and dry wines, as well as grape juice, to satisfy everyone's taste.
Rolled Chicken Breasts with Grandma Molly's Passover
Vegetable Stuffing (pictured above)
Grandma Molly's Vegetable Stuffing
8 chicken breasts (4 whole,
boned and cut in half)
1/4 cup oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
Prepare Grandma Molly's Vegetable Stuffing and cool.
Place a chicken breast, skin side down, on a sheet of wax paper, cover with another sheet of wax paper and using a mallet or tenderizer, gently pound the breast until desired thickness.
Spoon stuffing in the center and roll up the chicken breast, encasing the stuffing and tie with string. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.
Line a baking pan with foil, brush with oil and arrange onions and carrots on top. Place stuffed chicken breasts on top, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Add stock and wine and bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, increase the heat to 425 F, and bake about five minutes more, or until chicken is tender and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and slice on the bias.
To serve, arrange sliced chicken breasts on plates and spoon any juices from pan that remain.
Grandma Molly's Passover
1/2 cup raisins, plumped in 1 cup Passover Concord grape wine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 stalks celery, finely diced
6 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 parsnip, peeled and grated
2 medium zucchini, unpeeled
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons matzah meal
2-3 tablespoons matzah cake meal
2-3 tablespoons Passover cereal
or potato starch
1/4 cup dry red wine
Salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft, about three minutes. Add the celery, carrots, parsnip, and zucchini, and toss well. Cook for five minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Drain the raisins and add them to the vegetables with the parsley. Stir in 1 tablespoon each of the matzah meal, matzah cake meal and potato starch. Add the red wine and mix well. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients, a little at a time, until the stuffing is moist and soft but firm in texture. Season with salt and pepper. Cool.
Makes about 12 cups.
Chocolate Farfel-Pecan Clusters
16 ounces Passover semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups toasted matzah farfel
1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
In the top of a double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave, melt the chocolate. Pour the melted chocolate into a large bowl. Add the matzah farfel and pecans and mix thoroughly.
Spoon this mixture onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet or ruffled paper candy cups. Refrigerate until set.
To serve: peel the clusters off the waxed paper and place on a platter or serve in candy cups, along with Passover sponge cakes and cookies. Makes about 30 to 40 clusters