Every year our family celebrates Passover and Easter, but it is a rare year to celebrate both on the same weekend, which is why this week is so special.
My first exposure to Passover was as a 4th grader at a Catholic grade school when my teacher, a nun, took us to her convent where we had Passover. It was the first time I had matzoh. Since a young child, I have been fascinated with the Jewish religion.
Imagining life without Christmas – this was my first intrigue of the seemingly odd practice of the Jewish religion. I didn’t get it. If Jesus was Jewish, why did the Jews not celebrate his birthday? It wasn’t until my adult life that I came to know where the old testament and new testament separated the beliefs.
In college I dated a med student just because he was Jewish and I was more interested in his religion than him. I did marry a Jewish man and both our sons have become Bar Mitzvah, and so we have celebrated both Easter and Passover for the past 25 years. Both holidays connect our many friends and family and create wonderful traditions.
One year we had all of the Passover Props from my dear friend Adrianna’s aunt Thelma’s treasures. (My dear friend Adrianna, whose Aunt Thelma, a Wampanoag, married a rabbi). The handstitched, perfectly dry cleaned and pressed linens, the silver Passover plate and all of the stories brought awe and wonder to the Passover celebration. Adriana and Thelma are from the Wampanoag tribe of Aquinnah and we imagined how it must have been for her in the 60s to marry a Rabbi and convert to Judaism. Over the years so many wonderful stories have been collected and I wish that I had the same lamb shank frozen in the freezer to use year after year just as my friend Joan Nathan’s 98-year-old mother does every Passover.
Easter has been less of a religious holiday for us and more of a celebration of Spring. When the kids were little we always had an egg hunt followed by a brunch of ham and asparagus and eggs.
This year, with Easter and Passover on the same weekend, it will make for an interesting challenge to compliment and not duplicate the menus. Last Easter we roasted a whole lamb over a pit. Passover begins on Friday so we couldn’t possibly have any pork for Easter since it will be during Passover, even if it is from our own pigs.
Any and all of my favorite Passover and Easter menus are sure to make our celebration this year special and help to create more of our own stories to be shared year after year…
I think this is one dish I look forward to every Passover. It is simply so different than any other condiment.
Haroset represents the mortar. Its thick, chutney-like consistency symbolizes the bricks and mortar the Jews had to prepare when they were slaves, while its sweetness represents the joy of freedom that followed their slavery. Every year, I have tried different recipes, and while they may vary a bit, I make it with whatever ingredients inspire me. I do like pecans, apples, dates, ginger, cinnamon and red wine. Many of my friends say you can only make this with Manischewitz wine. I use dates and they bring about plenty of sweetness.
6 organic apples (Gala or Fuji) I do not peel them
1 cup roasted pecans or almonds
10 dates, pitted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup red wine
Blend in food processor until desired consistency.
5-6 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
4 Tablespoons butter
½ cup honey
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup figs chopped into small pieces
½ cup pitted prunes chopped into small pieces
Slice sweet potatoes, place in casserole dish and roast in 350 degree F oven for 35-40 minutes until cooked through. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, Melt butter in a separate saucepan. Add honey orange juice, salt and cinnamon to the butter. Mix well. When the sweet potatoes are cooked through, remove from oven, add butter mixture to sweet potatoes and mash lightly. Spread figs and prunes around and on top.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Stir gently and bake uncovered for 10 minutes until crispy on top.
Matzoh Ball Soup
Honestly, this is my least favorite dish, but I do like a broth that has loads of flavor and is clear. Dill and carrots are a must. I make a stock using a chicken carcass, onions, carrots, celery and 1 gallon of water. I cook for 1.5 hours and strain.
To make the soup, I simple slice one carrot very thin into circles and add to the strained broth. Cook the carrots in the broth for about 20 minutes until cooked. To make the matzoh balls, I buy matzoh meal in the box.
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. grated onion
2 Tbsp. melted chicken fat or butter
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
3/4 cup matzoh meal
Beat together eggs, salt, onion, and fat until creamy. Gradually fold the matzoh meal into egg mixture. Chill at least one hour and can be left overnight. Moisten hands and shape into 1/2-inch balls. Cook in 1 gallon of well salted water in a covered saucepan 30 minutes (or longer). Makes about 24. Add to the chicken broth and carrots and top with a dill sprig.
This is easy, quick and packed with flavor.
2 10 ounce packages of organic spinach
1 onion chopped fine
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic minced
6 eggs separated
1 cup matzoh meal
1/8 cup chopped dill
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
Defrost the Spinach. Sauté the onion in ¼ cup olive oil until transparent, add garlic and sauté until cooked through. Add the spinach and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Whip the egg white until stiff peaks form, Add yolks to cooled spinach mixture. Add matzoh, dill, salt and pepper. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites. Pour into oiled oven proof dish and bake for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Make your own horseradish – it is very easy!
Peel about 3“ of horseradish and chop roughly (or grate with a cheese grater)
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
For red horseradish, add one beet
Blend all in processor and store in clean jar.
5 cups high-gluten flour
1 ounce yeast
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup ice water
11 ounces butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients, except the butter and beat on low with dough hook for 10 minutes.
Add the softened butter and knead for another 20 minutes until dough slaps on the side of the bowl. Place in a container and cover well. Allow to rise in refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Make the Sticky Sauce – recipe below.
Roll out the dough onto a floured work surface into a rectangle shape that is approximately 1/4-inch thick. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Sprinkle mixture evenly on the dough. Roll up the dough jelly roll style and slice the roll into buns about 1-inch thick. Spread the sticky sauce on the bottom of a pie plate and place buns evenly spaced in the pan. Cover and allow to rise for 2 to 3 hours in a warm place. I make this the night before and place in fridge. In the morning, I remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place buns in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a serving platter.
2 sticks pound butter
1 cup brown sugar
5 ounces honey
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup water
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt together the butter and brown sugar. Remove from heat, let cool, and whisk in the honey, cream, and water. Set aside.
Lamb with Tabil and Preserved Lemons
2 cups whole-milk yogurt, divided
6 Tablespoons Tabil Spice Blend*
10 large garlic cloves, minced, divided
kosher salt plus more for seasoning
freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 4–5 pound butterflied leg of lamb, opened like a book
3 Preserved Lemons chopped fine
Mix 1 cup yogurt, 3 Tablespoons Tabil Spice Blend, and 3 minced garlic cloves in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. Whisk remaining 1 cup yogurt, remaining 3 tablespoons Tabil Spice Blend, 7 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add lamb, turn to coat. Cover and chill overnight, turning occasionally.
Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Grill until meat is cooked to desired doneness, 10–15 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grill lemon halves, cut side down, until charred, about 5 minutes. Thinly slice lamb against the grain and arrange on a platter; garnish with lemons. Serve with reserved yogurt sauce.
Adapted from Epicurious Grilled Yogurt Marinated Leg of Lamb.
*Tabil Spice Blend from Epicurious
This Tunisian mixture elevates everything from flatbreads to grilled lamb. Make extra so you’ll have some on hand all summer long.
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Check out Jan’s website for more on great food and workshops: Kitchen Porch