In the Kitchen Jewish Food

Passover, Shabbat and an in-person ‘Festival of Freedom’

By Ethel G. Hofman

(JNS) The first Passover seder takes place on Friday, April 15 at sundown, on the 15th day of Nissan and Shabbat to boot. During the eight-day holiday, no leavened or fermented food or drink is eaten, a reminder of the rushed exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. It is said to be the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday, mostly because it happens at home with family and friends, and not at synagogue. 

Now, it wouldn’t be a seder without traditional Ashkenazi dishes like matzah balls floating in chicken soup, braised brisket, sweet and savory kugels, tzimmes and salads, and desserts like coconut macaroons and flourless chocolate cake.

But for the second seder, consider a lighter meal. This may well be the start of a new tradition for worldly younger generations looking for fresh, healthy but still tasty and traditional holiday fare. At Dvash (Hebrew for “honey”), a Mediterranean restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida, owned and run by a dynamic Israeli couple, Ilan and Lauren Cohen, I dined on dishes like Pumpkin Soup With Sweet Potato Nuggets and Roasted Turmeric Cauliflower. Prepared with no leavening or pulses, it’s perfect for any Passover meal. Ilan, who began his career in Jerusalem, uses farm-fresh ingredients spiked with aromatic spices (available in general markets) to create mouth-watering dishes while eliminating the need for mundane seasonings like salt and pepper.

Inspired, I’ve adapted the recipe. Understandably, Ilan wouldn’t share his, though he did tell me the spices he used. Lauren’s Citrus Salmon is citrus-infused by baking the fish on a bed of sliced oranges. Tasty caponata—diced vegetables livened with olives and capers, a sweet-and-sour version of ratatouille—is heaped onto matzah to replace a heavier kugel. For a tropical twist to Pavlova, a traditional Australian dessert, mounds of coffee-scented whipped cream are spooned into a meringue shell, and then topped with mango and star fruit (carambola—a sweet-and-sour fruit that has the shape of a five-pointed star). Any fruit may be used, such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

Pumpkin Soup With Sweet Potato Nuggets (pareve)
Serves 6-8

Cook’s Tips:

*Canned pumpkin (not pie mix) makes this quick and easy or cook 3 cups diced pumpkin in boiling salted water until soft. Drain well and blend in food processor.

*Soup and baked sweet potato may be prepared 1 to 2 days ahead of time and chilled.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced (about ½ cup)
3 cups vegetarian broth
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons coarsely grated ginger root
1 1/2 tablespoons honey or to taste
1/2 cup nondairy creamer
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 large sweet potato, cooked peeled and cut in ½-inch dice
Chopped chives, parsley or slivered almonds to garnish (optional) 

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring often, till nicely browned. Add the broth, pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Reduce heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir in honey and nondairy creamer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the sweet potato and heat through. Serve hot with garnish (optional).

Lauren’s Citrus Salmon (pareve)
Serves 6

Cook’s Tips:

*If you can’t find kosher-for-Passover imitation soy sauce, substitute Dijon mustard.

*Rinse salmon in cold water and pat dry. Run fingers over the surface to remove any bones. If using an instant-read thermometer, the internal temperature should read 145 degrees.

2 large oranges, sliced about ¼-inch thick
6 (4 to 6 ounces each) salmon steaks, skin on
1/3 cup honey, warmed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons coarsely grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper or to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking dish with nonstick vegetable spray. Spread orange slices in a layer to cover the bottom of the dish. Place salmon steaks on top, skin-side down. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Spoon half of the mixture over the salmon steaks. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon remaining mixture over top. Return to oven and bake for 8-10 minutes longer or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Matzah Caponata (pareve)
Serves 6-8

Cook’s Tips:

Prepare caponata 2-3 days ahead for flavors to blend. Chill. Substitute dried cranberries for raisins.

1 rib celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium eggplant, trimmed and chopped into rough ½-inch pieces
2 red or yellow bell peppers, seeded and sliced
2 small zucchini, coarsely cut in ½-inch pieces
1 tomato, cut up coarsely
1 cup tomato purée (set aside an extra 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup vinegar
8 to 10 pitted olives, halved

1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons capers
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
3 to 4 sheets of matzah, halved

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the eggplant, peppers, zucchini and tomato. Add 1 cup tomato purée and vinegar. Cook 10 to 15 minutes longer, until vegetables are soft. Add the olives, raisins, walnuts and capers. If mixture is too dry, add remaining 1/4 cup tomato purée. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes longer, stirring often.

Serve chilled, spooned over matzahs.

Tropical Pavlova (pareve)
Serves 6-8

Cook’s Tips:

*A mixture of berries may be substituted for tropical fruits.

*Prepare meringue shell 2 days ahead of time. Store in a tightly lidded container at room temperature. Do not refrigerate!

*Heavy cream should be cold from the fridge to whip well.

*Egg whites whip up best at room temperature.

4 extra-large egg whites
1 1/4cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons potato starch, sifted
1 pint of heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
Sliced mango and star fruit

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until slightly stiff. Gradually add 1¼ cups sugar, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. At the last addition, beat until glossy and stiff peaks form. Fold in the vanilla, lemon juice and potato starch. Spoon the mixture inside the circle on paper. Spread so that there’s a slight depression in the center.

Bake for 1 hour in preheated oven or until firm to the touch. Turn off and leave in the oven for 3 to 4 hours or overnight to cool.

To serve: Transfer the pavlova shell to a serving platter. In a large bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Do not over beat. Fold in 1 tablespoon sugar and the cocoa. Spoon mixture into depression (some will spill over). Arrange mango and star fruit on top. Serve at once.

Sephardic Halvah Ice-Cream (dairy)
Serves 4

4 scoops of vanilla ice-cream, slightly softened
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1/2 cup halvah, crumbled, divided
2 tablespoons honey, warmed (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the ice-cream with tahini. Mix until smooth. Stir in 1/4 cup crumbled halvah. Place in the freezer until ready to serve. Place a scoop of ice-cream into each of 4 dishes. Drizzle with honey (optional). Sprinkle remaining halvah over top. Serve at once.

Ethel G. Hofman is a widely syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant.

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