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Celebrating Passover with Delicious Recipes

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As spring unfolds its petals, the Jewish community eagerly anticipates the arrival of Pesach, or Passover – a celebration of liberation and freedom. Beyond profound religious and historical significance, Passover is an opportunity to gather, share cherished traditions, and savor a feast that’s as rich in flavor as it is in symbolism.

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Join me as we explore what Pesach is, its origins, a Passover menu that harmonizes tradition with contemporary tastes, and delve into the art of setting a Seder table.

What is Pesach?

While not Jewish by heritage, we’ve celebrated Pesach or Passover for years. It’s an anticipated and meaningful celebration.

Called “Pesach” (pay-sak) in Hebrew, Passover is a celebration of freedom. A Hebrew commemoration of the exodus from slave labor in Egypt more than 3000 years ago. It is celebrated for seven days in Israel and eight days in the Diaspora (outside of Israel).

Biblical References to Passover

It is also a story, a narrative, a reminder of the power and majesty of God throughout the ages. A time to teach our children and pass on a biblical heritage.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Exodus 20:1,2

”Now this day [the day God passed over the first born in the land of Egypt during the plagues] will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.”

Exodus 12
Passover Seder plate with traditional food on travertine stone background with matzoh and seder plate.

Understanding the Seder: A Ritual of Remembrance

At the heart of the Passover celebration lies the Seder, a Hebrew word meaning “order” or “arrangement.” The Seder is a meticulously orchestrated ritual that takes participants through the story of the Exodus, creating a vivid and sensory experience that engages both young and old.

Typically held on the first two nights of Passover, the Seder is guided by the Haggadah, a special book that outlines the order of the evening’s events. It begins with the lighting of candles and the recitation of blessings, setting the stage for the retelling of the Exodus story with lines and activities. It is an entertaining evening for children and meaningful to adults as you walk through a joyous remembrance of liberation.

Each element of the Seder, from the symbolic foods on the Seder plate to the Four Cups of wine or juice, carries profound meaning and invites participants to reflect on themes of liberation, slavery, and the enduring spirit of the Jewish people.

Through a series of rituals, discussions, and prayers, the Seder serves as a powerful vehicle for passing down traditions and ensuring that the essence of Passover is not just celebrated but deeply felt.

For those who’ve never celebrated Passover or Pesach, we encourage you to try it this year. It is a celebration that will soon become a tradition in your home, as in ours.

Setting the Passover Table: A Ritualistic Tapestry

Before we dive into a mouthwatering menu, let’s begin by setting the stage for our Passover celebration. The Seder table is not just a place to enjoy a meal; it’s a visual and symbolic representation of the Exodus story. Begin by covering the table with a crisp white tablecloth, symbolizing purity and the unleavened bread (matzah) that the Israelites had to bake as they fled Egypt hastily.

Place the Seder plate at the center of the table – a ceremonial dish with key symbolic elements. The shank bone represents the Paschal lamb; the egg signifies renewal; bitter herbs reflect the bitterness of slavery; the charoset symbolizes the mortar used by the Israelite slaves, and a vegetable (usually parsley) represents spring and the initial flourishing of the Israelites in their newfound freedom. Arrange these components thoughtfully, creating a visual tapestry that tells the story of liberation.

As you set each place, consider adding a small dish of salt water for dipping, a reminder of the tears shed during the period of enslavement. Mirroring the significance of the Seder plate, these thoughtful details infuse the atmosphere with the spirit of Passover.

To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of helpful resources.

The following is the Seder Menu we traditionally use. After a rigorous spring cleaning of the house, I set our table with our finest linens and china and fill the house with joyful Jewish music.

Passover table at Pottery Barn.

Setting the Passover Table

  • Taper Candles or Candelabra
  • Pitcher of ice water for drinking
  • Basin of water and washcloth for hands
  • Sparkling Cider or grape juice in a carafe
  • Large plate with sheets of matzoh
  • Wrapped matzoh in a white linen napkin
  • Small bowl of salt water
  • Printed or copied Haggadah, the written readings to be given during the meal. (See resources below)
  • Seder Plate

Passover Table Resources

Seder Plate

The Seder Plate is the canvas from which you narrate the Passover story. If you don’t own a dedicated Seder Plate, a large plate or platter serves just as well, with five shallow bowls or ramekins to hold the following items.

1. Vegetables (Karpas): Represents the tears of slavery. Usually lettuce, cucumber, radish or parsley — one for each participant. This will be dipped into the salt water.

2. Shank Bone (Zeroa): Reminder of the 10th plague in Egypt and how God passed over homes protected by blood. This bone is traditionally from a lamb, but a chicken leg bone can also be used.

3. Hard Boiled Egg (Baytzah): This represents a voluntary peace offering, symbolic of the loss of two temples, one destroyed by Babylonians and the second by the Romans.

4. Haroset — It represents the mortar the Israelites used to make bricks in forced labor with Egypt. (See recipe).

5. Bitter Herbs (Maror): Because the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, we eat bitter herbs to remind us of the harshness of servitude. Horseradish is most commonly used — fresh, sliced, or pureed (about a teaspoon per participant).

Passover Seder Menu

Now, let’s turn our attention to the heart of any Passover celebration – the menu. Balancing tradition with a touch of modern flair, this curated selection of dishes will delight the senses and honor the essence of Passover. You will find additional recipes at the bottom of this post.

Matzah Ball Soup

Our journey begins with the comforting embrace of Matzah Ball Soup. Floating in a golden-hued broth, these matzah dumplings offer a light and airy texture. Infused with fresh dill and aromatic vegetables, this classic soup serves as a warm welcome to the Passover feast.

Haroset-Stuffed Chicken

Elevate the main course with a succulent Haroset-Stuffed Chicken. Marinated in a blend of sweet and aromatic ingredients reminiscent of the traditional charoset, this dish captures the essence of the Seder plate. The stuffing, featuring chopped apples, nuts, cinnamon, and a hint of honey, infuses the chicken with layers of flavor that pay homage to the symbolic mortar.

Lemon-Herb Roasted Vegetables

On the side, a vibrant medley of Lemon-Herb Roasted Vegetables adds a burst of color and freshness to the table. Asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and baby potatoes are roasted to perfection with a zesty herb-infused olive oil, providing a harmonious balance to the richer elements of the meal.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Introduce a contemporary twist to your Passover spread with Quinoa Tabbouleh. This light and refreshing salad, featuring the ancient grain quinoa, showcases a symphony of fresh herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s a delightful nod to the Middle Eastern influences that have shaped Jewish cuisine.

Flourless Chocolate Torte

No Passover celebration is complete without a decadent dessert, and a Flourless Chocolate Torte fits the bill perfectly. Velvety and rich, this indulgent treat is made with ground almonds instead of flour, ensuring our feast has a luscious, gluten-free finale.

More Recipes to Consider

List of Helpful Passover and Seder Resources

Embracing Tradition, Creating Memories

As the aroma of our Passover feast wafts through the air and the Seder table sparkles with symbolic resonance, we find ourselves not just indulging in culinary delights but participating in a timeless ritual that connects generations.

The joy of sharing a meal that echoes the essence of freedom is a powerful experience, reminding us of the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring significance of traditions that bind us together.

So, whether you’re a seasoned Passover host or a first-time celebrant, may your table be filled with love, laughter, and the unmistakable taste of freedom. L’chaim!

Kosher Passover Recipes

Jewish kosher food guidelines for a delicious Passover. These foods should be avoided during the seven days of Passover (eight days in the Diaspora).

  • Meats to avoid include pork, shellfish, lobster, shrimp, crab, rabbit, and seafood without fins or scales (swordfish and sturgeon).
  • Leavened bread, including certain grain-based foods like breads, pasta, pastries, breadcrumbs, etc. Choose unleavened bread (matzo) instead.
  • Avoid eating meat and dairy together (like cheese, butter, or cream sauce).
  • Fish and eggs may be served with dairy or with meat.

For more details on what is kosher for Passover, Chabad.org has a detailed list of what is and isn’t allowed for the holiday.

20 Passover or Pesach Recipes

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