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Mar 30 2012

Passover Seder: The Movie

By at 1:24 pm

My son acting out his role as Pharaoh.

This past Sunday, I brought home six pizzas and enough Girl Scout cookies to supply a store (oh, Tagalongs and Thin Mints–is it not latent anti-Semitism that your annual sale always falls just before Passover?) No, I was not hosting a Mad Men party. Instead, seven children under 8-years-old, their parents (my sisters and their husbands), and my brother and his wife were coming over to prepare, perform, and film The Second Annual Family Passover Video.

Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday. Trust me, I have no fondness for pre-Passover cleaning (or cleaning generally – just ask my neat-freak husband). And no, I do not feel that cardboard, aka “matzah,” bears any resemblance whatsoever to food. Cooking with cottonseed oil for a week is insanity: cotton should be worn, not eaten. And don’t get me started on the whole corn oil/peanut bullshit. Really, just don’t go there. Read the rest of this entry →

Passover Recipes!

By at 10:07 am

If you’re hosting a Passover seder this year, like me, it’s time to figure out your recipes (maybe past time to figure out your recipes, but hey, we can’t all keep to Joan Nathan’s fancy schedule). I’ve been scouring the internet to find recipes to fill in our seder–specifically, looking for some delicious chicken recipes and a new side dish or two. And dessert. Always dessert.

So if you too are looking for the latest and greatest recipes, here’s a place to start–and please, share your favorites below!

1. We always start our seder meal with matzah ball soup. Here’s a traditional recipe, but Meredith Jacobs also makes a beet matzah ball soup infused with ginger. A little exotic twist on the traditional ball.

2. We’re planning to serve chicken on Friday night, and I’m in search of an easy and delicious recipe (because my go-to is cornflake chicken and needless to say, that’s not exactly on the kosher for Passover list). So far I’ve found a few options–what do you think? I’m leaning toward this lemon chili chicken from The Shiksa in the Kitchen,

or maybe this apricot glazed chicken with sage from Dave Lieberman, or these sweet and sour chicken thighs with apricots from Epicurious. (Please, weigh in on this and tell me what will be EASY and yummy!)

3. Now, the star of many a seder is a brisket. This year we’ll be making my husband’s mom’s recipe, but I also think that this one and this one sound delish. Or try a novel spin on the traditional with this cranberry brisket recipe by Meredith Jacobs.

4. But side dishes also play an important role in a quality Passover seder. There’s the ubiquitous potato kugel (either from the box or from scratch like this one from our friends at MyJewishLearning.com), but try changing it up this year and making a carrot kugel.

I also recently discovered that I adore brussels sprouts, and it doesn’t take much to make them delicious–just roast them as in this Ina Garten recipe.  Or there’s always the classic asparagus, which feels so appropriate for Passover as it’s also a sign of springtime. I like this recipe by Zoe Singer–simple and scrumptious.

5. But when it comes to dessert, it feels like we’re always in search of something that’s actually good (and not just matzah meal dressed up as dessert). A few years ago I came across this Tyler Florence recipe for a flourless chocolate cake that I make year-round (just be aware that it definitely needs the butter). But this year I’m also finding inspiration in these raspberry coconut macaroons from Smitten Kitchen (did you catch our Q & A with Deb Perelman a while back?).

And NotDerbyPie makes these chocolate cookies that she swears don’t taste like Passover cookies. I’m inclined to believe her based on the ingredients and the photo. And since my 2.5-year-old loves to make cookies, we might have to try these ones out before Passover.

Oh, and if you’re on Pinterest, head on over and say hi–and check out our list of Passover recipes there too. (We’re Kveller.com, in case you didn’t guess.)

Now, ladies and gentlemen, what classic Passover recipes am I missing? Please link below!

Mar 29 2012

Passover, The Slacker Way

By at 2:40 pm

This is me preparing for Passover.

My friend Marjorie recently wondered if there was such a thing as Passover cooking for slackers. I wish. I overdo Passover so hard I always wind up ill before, during, and after the seders. Right now, just the thought that I must find, unfold, starch and iron the Florentine tablecloths makes me sweat. Forget about creating the haggadah and sorting plague toys and designing elaborate afikomen treasure hunts and oh, the deep cleaning supposedly going on for weeks beforehand. I realize seder prep needn’t be all or nothing, but I would love to hear about any time and trouble-saving tips that will save ME.

And then there is the cooking. If all I had to do was cook, I’d cook happy and calm. I’d don a vintage apron and stroll through ancient Sisterhood cookbooks, Joan Nathan, a few online posts, and then get sidetracked in Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. I’d sketch a graphic organizer of elaborate dishes tailored to the ages and preferences of each guest. And then I’d cook. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 27 2012

Cookbooks for Passover

By at 1:08 pm

This year I’m hosting my very first Passover seder. Oh, and did I mention that I have a 2.5-year-old and I’m 8 months pregnant? And my husband is traveling a few days a week every week between now and Passover?

So yes, I’m a bit nervous. I’ve been working on a menu, and though my family and my husband’s family all have our standard favorites, I kind of want to jazz it up a little bit this year. So I’ve started looking at cookbooks–that’s right, real cookbooks. And some websites too, of course, because yes, I work for Kveller and love the internet. I wanted to share with you some of my favorites–and am hoping you’ll tell me your favorites too!

1. The No-Potato Passover, by Aviva Kanoff

No Potato Passover

Because the two things I tend to live on during Passover (besides the ubiquitous matzah, of course) are potatoes and eggs. And I’m really psyched to get beyond that this year! The full-color pages are filled with gorgeous recipes that I think I could actually make. Nice.

2. Passover by Design, by Susie Fishbein

Passover By Design

This one’s written by the same woman who wrote Kosher by Design, and has a nice blend of the quick and easy recipe and the more-work but great payoff recipe. Oh, and did I mention that many of the recipes are gluten-free?

3. The New York Times Passover Cookbook, edited by Linda Amster

New York Times Passover Cookbook

So I’m partial to this one because my husband’s mother got her brisket recipe from the New York Times. But it’s filled with great chefs who write excellent Passover recipes. And yes, it’s been out for a decade, but once a classic, always a classic!

If you’re looking for websites to start your Passover planning, I’ve spent a little time searching on Epicurious, as well as MyJewishLearning.com (be sure to check out The Nosher, their newest food blog), CookKosher, and Joy of Kosher.

So now that I’ve shared some of my favorites, what are yours? What cookbooks am I missing, what websites didn’t I share? And be sure to check out Passover recipes board on Pinterest.


How to Choose Your Passover Haggadah

By at 9:57 am

It’s that time of year again. Spring is in the air, families are making their travel plans, and matzah is on sale (seriously, $4 for five boxes at my local A&P!). Passover begins on sundown, April 6th, and besides choosing the best recipe for matzah ball soup, there’s another important decision on your hands: the Haggadah. The Haggadah is a major determinate in how your seder will turn out. Long or short, funny or serious, traditional or modern–there’s a Passover Haggadah for everyone out there, little kids included. Here’s a review of some of our favorite Haggadot, as well as some online materials that just may suit your fancy.

matzah houseOnline Options:

DIY Seder

For the crafty, DIY set, this website is perfect. (I mean, the first image upon visiting their homepage is a matzah house. A matzah house!!) Here you can create your own Haggadah by answering some questions and choosing some custom content like activities and texts. Then you can print out your book or even use it on your iPad and share with others. They’ve got options for interfaith families, kid-friendly seders, and much, much more.

Haggadot.com Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 20 2012

Passover is Coming! And I’m Not Excited!

By at 4:37 pm
trapeze artist

The trapeze and the seder: both a balancing act.

I don’t have to look at a calendar. Lodze, the woman who has helped me clean my house for 25 years, and is by now as much friend as “cleaning lady,” already told me the first week in February that she is starting on my kitchen drawers and cabinets. Lodze is a religious Roman Catholic Pole who had family members who died in Auschwitz.

I don’t like Pesach. I dread it. I feel like I should make the shehecheyanu blessing, thanking God for “sustaining us and bringing us to this time” at the end rather than the beginning of the holiday. I’m grateful when it’s over.

What a confession from a FFB (Frum-From-Birth) woman who has made the seders for about 20 years. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 6 2012

Tu Bishvat in Candyland

By at 10:47 am
Tu Bishvat Candy

No time to plan a 15-course fruit seder for Tu Bishvat? Try candy.

The holiday of Tu Bishvat, a.k.a. the birthday of the trees, starts at sundown tomorrow. Tu Bishvat is a field day for all environmentally-conscious families: an ideal ground from which to explore, celebrate and protect all things ecological. Kabbalists gave it a 15-course fruit seder of its own back in the 16th century, which is still observed in some fashion today. But if you want to make this tradition more tangible for your kids, we have some candy recommendations for you.

To read the rest of Joanna’s piece, click here.

Apr 21 2011

Passover is NOT a Diet

By at 10:51 am

Can Passover help you look like this?

While searching for Passover seder ideas online this year, I discovered this article from Shape magazine where the author recommends eating Passover foods, even if you’re not Jewish, as a diet.

She highlights the potato, which unlike breads and pastas, takes longer to break down in the body. She goes on to extol the benefits of eating green spring vegetables (like parsley) and the fact that you can’t eat processed foods during Passover means that you are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables.

Now, I wonder whether this author has actually attended a Passover seder. Because it’s not anything resembling healthy (though we did have some plain grilled asparagus this year). I don’t know how brisket, chicken, matzah kugels, potato kugels, matzah ball soup, and dessert after dessert after dessert adds up to healthy. And I’d counter her assumption that you don’t eat processed foods during Passover–because potato chips are often a-ok with the kosher police. (And my go-to snack during these long, long, breadless days.)

So no, Passover is not a diet. If you want to lose weight–do it. Just don’t use Passover as your excuse.

** Note: after some research, I discovered that in fact the author actually hosted her own seder this year. Making her claims that Passover can be an effective diet even more… well, ridiculous.

Apr 14 2011

How to Set the Seder Plate

By at 10:42 am

If you’re as obsessed with all of those reality cooking shows as I am (any one with the word “chef” in it is automatically amazing), you know that food is not just about the food anymore. It’s all about the plating. You know what else is all about the plating?

Passover.

Setting up the seder plate is a key component to the holiday celebration, so we’re offering up this veritable cheat-sheet that shows you exactly where everything goes and what it all actually means. You can download it here to print out and have on hand for your seder come Monday night.

cartoon seder plate

While you’re at it, have another viewing of our official Seder Plate music video, sure to get you in the mood for Passover.

Apr 8 2011

Passing on the Passover Seder

By at 1:39 pm

Every once in a while, it hits me like a soft pillow. I am a matriarch!

This year, for the first time, we are going to my daughter’s house for the first days of Passover. She is exactly the same age I was when my parents first began coming to me and my sister who lived around the corner. Nearly a quarter century has passed since the day we told our parents that it was time to give up the seder in their home, where bodies slept all over the Upper West Side apartment in which I grew up, and come out to Queens where they, and my brother’s family, could be put up more comfortably.

In our house, we had put in a small Pesach kitchen in the basement where I cooked for days, enlisting the kids as “helpers.” Yes, sometimes it was the kind of help you could do without. But we had lots of fun–daughter #1 dipped chicken cutlets in egg and matzah meal, son #1 de-bugged the maror lettuce, daughter #2 made knaidlach (matzah balls) and son #2 played in the chopped meat trying to form meatballs. We all grated the horseradish and mixed the haroset together. Invariably, the smoke detector let out a piercing screech in the middle of all the hoopla and I had to climb up to disconnect it. Our ears rang for a while. As I said, it was a small kitchen.

It was a lot of work and I did get crabby. I always say that if you prepare for Pesach you get an inside look at slavery. But the excitement and togetherness of the preparations were not only educational, they created enthusiasm for, and pride in, the finished project. We’d set the table together and the kids would put out their hand-made place cards. Each seder would begin with my acknowledgment of, and thanks to, each child for her/his particular contribution.

Since my grandsons were 2, they have come over the day before the holiday to help me prepare the ritual foods. We talk about the story of the Exodus and I reminisce about the seders I had with my own grandparents. According to custom, I acknowledge and thank the kids for their help (again, the kind of help you could, under other circumstances, do without.)

This year, I will cook at home and go to my daughter’s on Sunday night. Monday, I will repeat the ritual with my two boys and, for the first time, with their 20-month old sister in their kitchen. We’ll set the table together and put out hand-made place cards and  discuss the Exodus story. And they will again listen raptly to my reminiscences about seders with my Nana and Poppa, my Grandma and Grandpa. (I am a compelling storyteller, if I do say so myself.)

I have asked my children to work out among themselves that my husband and I are not alone on a holiday. So we are off to New Jersey while two of our kids go to Israel and one to Brooklyn with their respective in-laws. It will be a smaller seder than usual for us, but I am anticipating it happily.

My husband and I will sit at a different table this year. But, as in the past, I will look at the precious faces around the table and my eyes will fill with tears of joy and gratitude. I will be thinking of the unique confluence of past, present, and future the seder represents to me. I will remember when my grandmothers were the matriarchs and then my mother. I will be mildly astonished, yet again, that I now fill that role. And I will look forward to other holidays, other tables, other faces joining us as our family expands.

One day, I’ll be missing. But I am pretty sure that my grandchildren will make the ritual foods and reminisce about the seders they spent with their Savta and Zaidie. And maybe they’ll even recall the proud smile and teary eyes that Savta always seemed to have as she looked around the table.

Because then, you see, I will be there, no matter where they are, no matter which table they are sitting at.

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