Growing up, our family didn’t have a Passover seder. I do remember that, once I was older, we often went to one at someone else’s house – but we also looked for Easter eggs and had Easter baskets. It was a Southern and unique brand of Passover, I suppose.
Now that I have my own little family, I have come to love, love, love making Passover dinner and the whole seder shebang.
First, I love all the food involved – my mother’s matzo ball soup, brisket and roasted veggies, charoses, and even gefilte fish with lots and lots of horseradish. The food tastes comforting to me and it’s always fresh and delicious.
But I also love what the seder represents. Family coming together, even if it’s not your own family but people that you consider family (“the family you choose,” someone once told me). The representation of spring and rebirth – the eggs, the bright green parsley.
Here are some tried and true recipes for Passover. Of course, you can make them even if you aren’t Jewish or having a seder. We eat the chicken soup all the time. It cures what ails ya.
My Charoses Recipe:
One thing to keep in mind about recipes handed down and also ones that have been improvised over time is that they don’t contain exact measurements. My charoses recipe is loosely based on one from my mother-in-law, but that recipe didn’t really have measurements in it, either. So, just kind of wing it. Taste as you go.
Apples – I use Fuji or Gala; my mother-in-law uses red delicious. Use at least four. I think I used six or seven, but, as you can see in the picture above, they were small, and I like having leftovers.
Dried fruit – I have used apricots, raisins, prunes, cherries, or cranberries (not all together). Choose two or three you like and go with it. This time, I used apricots, raisins, and a few prunes.
About 1/4 cup grape wine, like Mogen David or Manischewitz
A splash to about 1/4 cup of apple juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
About 1/8 cup cinnamon (to taste)
About a tablespoon of honey
Squirt of juice from half a lemon
Optional: chopped pecans (about a handful) (I don’t use nuts in mine because my kids and I don’t like them.)
Chop the apples into small chunks. Most charoses recipes say to peel the apples, but I confess that I never do. Peel them, don’t peel them…totally up to you.
Squeeze the lemon juice on the apples (so they don’t turn brown).
Then chop the dried fruit if it’s in larger pieces and add to the apples. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and add it to the fruit, then add the wine and apple juice. Stir together. Taste to make sure it doesn’t need anything (I often add more wine or juice – it gets soaked up in the fruit and nuts). Cover and refrigerate – the longer, the better.
We eat this as a side dish or for breakfast, or on matzo with a little horseradish. Mmmm.
Chicken soup (for matzo ball soup or really any other chicken soup recipe):
2-3 whole chickens – you can leave them whole or cut them into pieces. Just make sure that you remove the gross bag inside the chicken before putting it in the pot.
3-4 carrots – cut into chunks (you want to be able to fish them out of the soup)
3-4 celery stalks – cut into chunks like the carrots (you can throw them in with the leaves still on them – totally fine)
2-3 medium onions – cut into chunks
thyme – 2 or 3 fresh sprigs or less dried
kosher salt or Lowry’s Seasoning Salt
Add the chicken to a large soup pot. Season with some Lowry’s Seasoning Salt (less of this than the other spices), black pepper, and garlic powder.
Add carrots, celery, onions, and thyme. You can add any other leftover veggies (parsnips, parsley, etc.) you want/may have and need to get rid of. You can also add a couple smashed cloves of garlic.
Cover all with water and, as my recipe says, “cook til it’s soup,” which is about two hours. Keep the heat on high until it reaches a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for the rest of the cooking time.
Once it’s finished cooking, fish out all of the “stuff” (chicken, veggies, herbs) from the soup. I first remove the big pieces of chicken and vegetables with tongs or a slotted spoon. Once all the big stuff is out, then I pour the soup into a smaller pot through a colander to strain the soup. Do this in the sink, so you don’t make a mess!
Discard all the vegetables and herbs, unless you like cooked carrots in your soup (then keep them, slice them, and add them back to the broth). For the chicken, discard all bones and skin, but you can add the cooked meat back to the broth if you want to make more of a hearty soup or stew. Or, you can use the chicken for anything else – chicken salad, enchiladas, quesadillas, salads, etc.
Once the soup has cooled a bit, refrigerate it. After the broth has totally cooled in the fridge, skim the fat from the top of the soup. You can save the fat to cook something in (the fat is called “schmaltz” in Yiddush, FYI).
Add matzo balls, noodles, whatever strikes your fancy.
To make matzo balls, I use the mix and follow the instructions with one caveat: when you mix the egg, oil, and meal together, stir just enough to combine. Do not over-stir. This makes for fluffier matzo balls!
I call this Matzo Crack because it is addictive!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Take a cookie sheet and line it with foil. Then cover it with matzo, breaking the pieces to fit.
Then, in a double-boiler, melt together two sticks of salted butter and a cup of dark brown sugar:
Stir until combined and butter is no longer separated from sugar.
Then pour over matzo and spread to cover.
Sprinkle one package of semi-sweet chocolate chips over the matzo.
Bake for 8 minutes or until everything is all melty and happy together.
While hot, you can use a knife or spatula to swirl the chocolate and caramel together. (You’re welcome.)
Let it cool for a little bit, then stick the whole pan in the freezer until completely cool and hard.
Once hard, take it out of the freezer and break into bite-sized pieces.
Then try not to eat the whole thing. Mmmmm.
Enjoy! Happy Passover to those celebrating and Happy Spring to everyone!