A Passover Cocktail PartyWho says you can’t have a great cocktail party during Passover?  You can, and you should!  After all, the holiday is eight days, and just because there are a lot of dietary restrictions to consider, it is certainly not an impossible undertaking.  Don’t be a shut-in during the holiday–invite your friends over for a drink and appetizers.  Here are a few suggestions:
There are, of course, many fine kosher for Passover wines available now, so a wine-only cocktail party is certainly an option, but I recently discovered a brand of gin (No.209) and a vermouth (Kedem) that are both Kosher for Passover and available at most liquor stores as well!
So, bring on the K for P martinis and toast to commemorate the story of freedom for the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt!   I’ll drink to that!
Now that we have the drinks out of the way, deciding what small tidbits to serve (and which can be served) is easy.  We are going meat-free here so as not to mix milk and meat, in accordance with the laws of Kashrut.
Start with a holiday-friendly cheese platter. Scatter around some dried fruits such as figs and apricots, and add some bowls of spiced nuts (peanuts might be a no-no for some folks)–I’ve included the recipe below. Corn is not a Passover-sanctioned food, so corn chips are out, but potatoes are on the approved list. You can pair homemade potato chips (or store-bought ones) with a caramelized onion dip (recipe below), and your guests will be thrilled.
For some color, the bowl of dip can be placed in the center of a platter of beautifully blanched asparagus spears, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli florets.  Since this party is in a no-meat zone–a variety of fresh salsas, both sweet (perhaps using mango) and savory (traditional and spicy hot)–would also be flavorful additions. They can be served with sheets of whole-wheat and egg matzohs that have been broken into dip-sized pieces–and who doesn’t love the Kosher for Passover Tam Tam crackers?
A new addition to my cocktail party this year will be savory Sables (sa-blays), buttery cocktail cookies. My own recipe below is a variation of the standard recipe that calls for Parmesan cheese and a bit of cayenne pepper. I have taken the liberty of making it Kosher for Passover by substituting a combination of matzoh cake meal and potato starch for the flour. I’ve also added a Latin flavor substituting Manchego, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese and smoked paprika (pimenton).While the cake meal/potato starch mixture does not create as sandy a texture as the traditional flour, I think this is still a pretty darn good Kosher for Passover stand-in. In fact, these sables are good enough to serve with just a glass of one of those great Passover wines.

1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) matzoh cake meal
1 Tbsp. potato starch
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Manchego cheese (or other sharp kosher for Passover cheese)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste) smoked paprika (pimenton)
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 7 slices, well chilled
2 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons very cold water

To make the dough:
1. Put the matzoh cake meal, potato starch, cheese, salt and paprika in a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are slightly larger than pea size, about 10 to 12 pulses depending on your machine. Drizzle the water evenly over the flour mixture. Pulse until the dough begins to form moist crumbs that are just beginning to clump together, about 8 or 9 more pulses depending on your machine.
2. Dump the moist crumbs onto the unfloured counter and gather into a pile. With the heel of you hand, push and gently smear the crumbs away from you until they start to come together in a cohesive dough. Two or three ‘smears’ should do the trick. Using a bench scraper, gather the dough together and turn it about 45 degrees and give it one or two more smears.  Gather the dough together and shape the dough into a 7 1/4-inch long cylinder. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very firm, about 3 hours, or up to 2 days.
3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/4-inch slices and arrange about 1 inch apart (they don’t spread much at all) on the prepared sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, until nutty brown around the edges, 16 to 18 minutes. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.
4. The dough can be shaped and frozen for up to a month and then thawed for about an hour on the counter or in the refrigerator overnight. Likewise, tuck the baked and cooled sables in a heavy duty zip top bag and stash them in the freezer. Thaw at room temperature and warm them for a few minutes at 325°F to refresh the flavors.
1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I might up this by a 1/2 tsp. next time for more of a sweet/salty balance)
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper (I swapped this with 1/4 teaspoon of hot smoked paprika)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnut or pecan halves or blanched almonds
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add walnuts, and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.
(adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
grated zest of one lemon
1 bunch chives, minced
Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.) Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Add the lemon zest and minced chives and stir. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.
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