Taking a crash course in Judaism will probably be a bit overwhelming, but the holidays may be a better place to start. Conveniently enough, Passover, one of the most widely celebrated of the Jewish holidays is currently in session. Since I missed the opportunity to celebrate the first two seders with my family because I was away, I have signed up to host the last seder.
I don't know why, but Passover has always been my favorite Jewish holiday. Perhaps it's the optimistic nature, the celebration of liberation, or maybe it's the the fact that it revolves around family and food that really attracts me to this holiday. In any case, I am thrilled to make a perfect passover feast for my big mishpucha.
I know that the significance of Passover goes far beyond food. But if you think about it, food is really the force bringing everyone to the table. Hopefully from there, the thanks given for the feast will lead us to give thanks for our ancestors' liberation, and ultimately educate us about the significance of this holiday and of our faith in general.
Now, a traditional seder dinner comprises of several steps including lighting candles, reciting various blessings, eating foods that symbolize different elements of the Jews' exodus from slavery, and more. To be honest, I don't know that I can pull off the perfect passover seder, considering this is the first one I will host. But I will certainly try. I hope that the table I create will tell the story of Passover. In case I fail to do so, however, the Seder Plate (a special plate containing 6 foods that symbolize different elements of the exodus from Egypt) should do the trick. The 6 items traditionally placed on this plate are:
- maror & chazoret (bitter vegetable and herbs; romaine lettuce and horseradish are commonly used) symbolizes the bitterness of the Jews' slavery in Egypt
- karpas (vegetable to dip into salt water; celery, potato, or parsley are commonly used) - symbolizes the pain and tears cried during slavery)
- charoset (sweet mixture of apples, nuts, and wine) - symbolizes the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt
- beitzah (hard-boiled or roasted egg) - symbolizes the festival sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, and also the mourning after the destruction of the temple- z'roa (roasted shank bone or chicken wing) - symbolizes the lamb that was roasted as a sacrifice and eaten on seder night
Additionally, a plate with 3 pieces of matzah should be on the table.
I've decided to revolve my menu around the foods on the seder plate. But as much as I want to adhere to a traditional seder dinner, I do want to put my own modern spin on things. Here's what I'm thinking...
(Mind you, this menu is not set in stone. I may come up with something totally different between now and Tuesday...or not. We'll see)
Mama Chef's Passover Menu:
Matzah Ball Soup
(okay so I may be contradicting myself here, but I don't want to put any kind of spin on this one because it's so incredible just the way it is. If it ain't broke, don't fix it right?)
Baby Spinach Salad with Beets, Oranges, Walnuts and Red Wine Vinaigrette(other than the components of this salad that are featured on the seder plate, oranges are a new addition by some Jewish households to symbolize more recent liberations for groups like women and gays)
Pan Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Eggs and Herb Hollandaise
Crispy White Fish Cakes with Avocado Horseradish Cream(Gefilte fish is the quintessential Jewish Holiday dish, but quite frankly, it grosses me out. I may be wrong, but I have a hunch I'm not the only one. So this is my "upgraded" version)
Slow Braised Chicken with Apples and Dried Apricots
White Chocolate Macaroons
I'll have all the recipes and pictures of my final menu up next week, so stay tuned and wish me luck!