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Passover Seder

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DH and I are hosting our first Passover Seder this year and I am very excited! I think I have propoerly asked my sister-in-laws to make their appropriate items (charoses, chicken soup and stuffed cabbage so they feel they have contributed and I am working on figuring out the rest of the menu. I would love to read what others are doing for Passover Seder.

Here is my menu so far:
Matzo Kugel (will figure out the flavor later)
Pistachio-Chocolate Cake

My husband's family does not enough of vegetables (in my opinion), so I will be making a lot of vegetable sides, but the exact sides are not finalize, although I am thinking braised string beans, roasted beets, sauteed kale, roasted potatoes -- would love to get more ideas.

Depending on how busy I am, I may try my hand at making matzo balls. I do know, however, I am too busy to make gefilte fish. BTW -- I am not Jewish; my husband is; I am of Chinese decent.

On a slight tangent -- how do you insist that relatives and friends NOT bring anything more than what they have been instructed to bring? Every year, my niece's boyfriend brings this awful kosher cake. Except for not mixing dairy and meat and not eating grains, our family does not observe all the kosher rules, so no need to bring a kosher cake made with margarine and shortening -- is there any way to say this politely? And I saw another post about what to do with leftover chocolate cupcakes -- what about a leftover kosher chocolate cake? Each year, everyone takes an obligatory sliver of the cake the 3/4 of it is left over! I'm not saying that ALL kosher cakes are not good -- just the one he brings.


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  1. This thread might give you some ideas on dishes to make. Some talk about matzo balls.

    I have to tell you that my "recipe" for matzo balls is Manischewitz matzo ball mix. They come out perfect every single time.


    1 Reply
    1. re: valerie

      Thanks so much for the link, Valerie! I did a search on this topic and for some reason, did not see this.

    2. There is nothing whatsoever you can do to stop people from bringing bad contributions to your home-cooked meal. You must learn to smile, say thank you in your nicest possible fake voice, and then either serve the cake or put it away for "later". If you already have your desserts covered, you can say you'd like to keep it for later in the week when it will be, er, so very much more appreciated. Or you can simply put it out on the table, say "...And this wonderful cake is from Cousin Fred!"

      If by a stroke of good fortune, the cake or whatever horror you end up with is fully wrapped and you can set it aside for "later" you can take it to a Jewish senior's home or food bank, if there's one near you. There's often a Passover food drive during the holiday because K for Passover food is so hideously expensive.

      1. If you are interested in feed back on "On a slight tangent -- how do you insist that relatives and friends NOT bring anything more than what they have been instructed to bring?", please post about it on the Not About Food board, since the Home Cooking board is limited to cooking/recipes, etc.

        Thank you!

        1. Roasted asparagus with a little olive oil, kosher salt and lemon juice is a great vegetable dish. It tastes just as good at room temperature as hot. Can help with brisket recipe if you need one, have lots of other recipes if you are looking for something specific.

          Everyone's family has one member who refuses to listen to reason and marches to his/her own drummer. Very good suggestion about donating it to homeless shelter or nursing home. You are not obligated to serve the food, wine, candy or liquor guests bring.

          We are Conservative, our seder is traditional, not necessarily glatt kosher. I would be careful with string beans. If your husband's family is Ashkenazi, they may object to string beans as not kosher for the holiday. Also, be careful if relative puts rice in stuffed cabbage filling. A lot of Ashekanazis won't eat rice, but Sephardim might. Just want to clear all this in advance so no headaches and stress day of event.

          Here is a recipe for matzo balls:
          8 eggs
          1/2 cup club soda or seltzer water
          1/2 cup canola oil
          2 cups matzo meal
          1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp white pepper
          3 T dried dill weed (optional)

          Beat eggs with oil and water till fluffy, add seasoning. Gradually add matzo meal till incorporated. Refrigrate bowl for 30-45 minutes. When ready to make, bring 8 qt pot of water to boil with 2T salt (very important to cook in salted water, as this adds flavor). Rinse hands in cold water, shake excess water off very well. Make golf ball size balls, drop in boiling, salted water. Should get 25-30 matzo balls. When all balls are in pot, lower to light simmer, cover and time 30 minutes. When you think balls should be done, uncover, remove one, stick toothpick in to middle, should be cooked all the way through. If not, cook a few minutes more. Drain very well in one layer in colander. When thoroughly drained, freeze as described above or refrigerate.

          This makes medium size matzo balls. I don't care for large ones, but I assume you can make those, just allow additional cooking time. When making soup, heat soup first, then add defrosted balls at last minute, just long enough to warm, so the soup won't be too starchy.

          1. First of all, good luck, have fun & don't let the annoying relatives get to you. We all have them.:)

            You've had some good advice so far. Remember, you don't know exactly when the meal will be served because the seder can run longer or shorter than you expect. So it's best to choose dishes that aren't time sensitive or need lots of last minute preparation. This can mean dishes that won't be hurt by keeping them warm in the oven. For example, I often serve ratatouille (sp?). Carrots are also traditional - look up recipes for tzimmes. Another option is something that can be served cold, such as a salad or marinated vegetables. Finally, you can cook asparagus, broccolli or most green vegetables most of the way, drain and add a little olive oil and seasonings. Then zap them in the microwave to finish cooking right before serving.

            Don't forget the hard-boiled eggs. Didn't see that on your menu. That's a great thing to assign out if someone wants to be helpful.

            I've found most Passover cakes aren't very good. One thing I often make that's easy and elegant for dessert is chocolate dipped fruit. Just melt semisweet chocolate and dip fresh and/or dried fruit in it. Put them on a Aluminum foil and refrigerate until firm. Strawberries and dried apricots are especially good.

            1. Congrats on hosting seder! You're going to do a great job - I can tell.

              I find gefilte fish absolutely as disgusting as quenelles, so I don't ever eat it, but some people like it. I doubt anyone will miss it if you don't include it.

              Can you ask your niece's boyfriend to bring something else? What about macaroons? They're almost foolproof. On that front - we never make Passover cakes cause the consistency is just wretched - instead we make our own macaroons. I can provide a recipe if needed. Here's a recipe for the only Passover cake I can abide: http://italianfood.about.com/od/cakes...

              If you've already assigned chicken soup - will that version include matzoh balls? I've never actually seen matzoh balls just on their own. Make sure to check in to see what your relative has decided.

              As for vegetables - we always have asparagus and then also broccoli rabe, escarole, or some other hardy green with dinner. We don't do tzimmes, but have done artichokes, either steamed or sauteed, in the past. You can never go wrong with sauteed spinach.

              I posted what we're having in that other thread, but I'll repost for you to helpful.

              Seder Night 1:

              chopped liver with pickles and those crispy puffy things (someone's bringing
              )olives, fennel, carrots and celery
              gefilte fish (someone's bringing)
              matzoh ball soup (we're in the floater camp)
              matzoh (boxed)

              seder plate

              cold poached salmon on steamed asparagus with a dill cream sauce
              grilled leg of lamb marinated in rosemary, lemon, worcestershire, vermouth, etc
              vegetable - what's fresh
              saffron rice (we're italkim - go rice!)
              some other type of vegetable

              macaroons (coconut and almond flavors)

              9 Replies
              1. re: gini

                Gini, I am not the kosher police, but had to chuckle when I saw leg of lamb. We are not that observant, but anything on an animal beyond the rib cage (short loin, sirloin, rump, leg) is not kosher. I got yelled at once for serving shrimp as an appetizer at a Shabbat dinner for an entire crowd of Reform folks. Go figure!

                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                  Shhhh....don't let my mother find out!

                  By the way, I think she's actually making a rack of lamb, not a leg, now that i think about it.

                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                    It is kosher if the butcher can remove the sciatic nerve, no? However that is unusual in North America.

                    1. re: lagatta

                      I think its the nerve and surrounding blood vessels so it isn't cost effective to attempt to do this, thus the bottom half of the animal usually isn't sold.

                  2. re: gini

                    Are you kidding - no gefilte fish?????? I don't eat a lot of it but come passover that is one dish I would surely miss. Sorry but I totally disagree with you on that piece of advice gini.

                    1. re: millygirl

                      I find it to be one of the foulest things I've ever put in my mouth. Thankfully, our gefilte fish maker (yes, homemade) has switched to matzoh ball soup this year. Different strokes, different folks.

                      1. re: gini

                        I was at a Rosh Hashanah supper in France a few years ago and our hosts served gefilte fisch - it was the whole carp stuffed with minced fish and was an absolutely spectacular dish.

                        And needless to say, no Manischewitz! At least one was a Baron de Rothschild wine... but of course that is France.

                        I do understand the nostalgic appeal for people who grew up with certain foods and beverages though.

                        1. re: lagatta

                          Actually, I spent much of my youth in France and dislike quenelles just as much - as you can see from my post above.

                          1. re: gini

                            Yes, quenelles are very similar to the "free-standing" kind of gefilte fisch.

                  3. Thanks so much for the advice everyone!

                    While this is our first time hosting, it is not the first time taking part of a Passover Sedar. My husband's family is Ashkenazi, but a brother-in-law is Sephardic, with neither side very observant, although DH and I attend a conservative snynagogue for the high holidays (although it is in Woodstock, so I don't know if Woodstock conservative is the same as NYC Upper West Side Conservative). We have instructed my sister-in-law not to stuff the cabbage with rice (or any other grain). Why are string beans not kosher for the holidays? That is a new one for me. Ha! I wonder if DH even knows this.

                    I like the chicken liver idea! I am just about to put an order through my CSA for meat and will now include a couple pounds of chicken livers.

                    As for hard boiled eggs -- great idea as well, but what about deviled eggs? Are those allowed?

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: Vshu

                      Legumes are not permitted on Passover, so there go the string beans...here is some info...


                      1. re: valerie

                        Please note that only some Jews subscribe to those Ashkenazi restrictions. My family has always eaten corn, rice, peanuts, and legumes during Pesach. Since OP's party is mixed and non-observant, it might be better to ask than assume.

                        1. re: gini

                          Yes, it's all a matter of what a particular family does. Everyone seems to have their own set of rules and traditions.

                          Honestly, while I wouldn't serve legumes on Passover to my guests, I would eat them in the days following.

                        2. re: valerie

                          Um, aren't string/green beans merely regular green vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, etc - and thus *not* in the legume/pulse/may-not-be-considered-kosher-for-Passover-for-some camp? Just curious about the "not kosher for the holiday" aspect Diane in Bexley mentioned earlier.

                          1. re: kpzoo

                            It wasn't until I was an adult that I learned that string beans are not considered kosher for Passover by many people. It would never have occurred to me. And, to be honest, I'm quite sure that my parents - observant but not technically orthodox - would have cheerfully eaten string beans at Passover. Horrifying many of my relatives, I'm sure, but everyone has their own standards.

                            1. re: Nyleve

                              Actually for us it was the other way around. As a kid string beans were a no-no and then they became okay. As my bother says....ask your rabbi.... or search around for one who's opion you want.

                              1. re: Nyleve

                                I actually had no idea that string beans weren't allowed until 3 years ago (and I'm almost 40). I was hosting my first seder and said to my mother in passing "I'm going to make Barefoot Contessa's string beans with shallots". She informed me about the string beans, but tried to convince me to make them anyway. Although nobody would have run from my table screaming, I couldn't do it. So I made asparagus with shallots and it was great.

                                It all goes back to everyone having their own standards. While I wouldn't serve string beans, I use my regular set of dishes and I don't use separate passover pots or anything, so what's really the difference?!?

                                1. re: valerie

                                  Asparagus! Did you know that under certain orthodox rules, asparagus is suspect too? Not to mention broccoli! I'm not trying to get into any kind of kosher debate here but it just goes to show you that it's hard to please everyone.

                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                    Only one word comes to mind here - oy!

                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                      They're not suspect because they are related to other beans, asparagus and broccolli are suspect because bugs can hide in them. If you check carefully the tips of three asparagus spears of the bunch, and three florets of the broccolli of the crown, and none have bugs, they're fine.

                                      1. re: milklady

                                        Ah - and I thought that you have to either check the whole thing or not eat it. I wasn't prepared to do either. Thanks for the clarification.

                            2. re: Vshu

                              Deviled eggs - maybe, as long as you don't use mustard. Mustard seed alos belongs to the "kitniyot" category, loosely translated as "legumes," but not really. For Ashkenazi families, there is a loose framework of rabbinic restrictions that go beyond the biblical injunctions regarding what cannot be eaten on Passover. While many of these restrictions made some sort of sense at one time, many no longer do. Still, by tradition, the customs have the force of law.

                              The OU and Star-K websites have some pretty extensive and readable explanations or what is and isn't permissible and why.

                              And kpzoo, string beans are considered kitniyot and not permissible for Ashkenazim. They would be a perfect example of a restricition that doesn't seem to make sense. It is what it is.

                              1. re: rockycat

                                You could probably use a little horseradish instead of the mustard. Thank you.

                              2. re: Vshu

                                My grandmother served hard boiled eggs in salt water. That's what I'm serving.
                                Deviled eggs are kinda, well, weird at a seder IMHO

                              3. Re: On a slight tangent -- how do you insist that relatives and friends NOT bring anything more than what they have been instructed to bring? Every year, my niece's boyfriend brings this awful kosher cake. Except for not mixing dairy and meat and not eating grains, our family does not observe all the kosher rules, so no need to bring a kosher cake made with margarine and shortening -- is there any way to say this politely?

                                I'm not following you exactly. If you are saying you are careful about not mixing dairy and meat, it makes sense that they would bring a cake made with margarine and shortening. I'm not denying that this particular cake might be awful, but one made with butter and cream, while it might taste much better, would certainly be the dairy that you are not mixing with meat. Or do you mean that while you don't mix them in the same dish, you have no problem with mixing them at the same meal?

                                1. The only way to stop someone from bringing something you dislike is to tell them precisely what to bring to your meal.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: dawnfawn

                                    For that very reason, I have told everyone to bring wine. It's a family of terrible cooks. I just hope they don't bring Manischewitz.

                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                      Be specific about the wine. There are many fine kosher wines nowadays. I attended a kosher wedding in Paris (bride Moroccan, groom Canadian of Polish descent) and the wine was excellent, as was the food.

                                      1. re: lagatta

                                        The funny thing is that, as much as we love good wine, my husband (and two derelict sons) enjoy a good kosher wine buzz. The three of them will sit together at the seder table and polish off whatever horrid sweet swill my idiot brother in law brings. On the other hand, I am not picky about the wine being kosher for Passover (or kosher at all, for that matter). We'll drink some kosher during the seder, out of tradition, but once the meal begins, we open whatever looks good - kosher or not. And I did pick up some really interesting looking K f P wines the other day, so I won't have to drink Jack's stupid Manischewitz.

                                        1. re: Nyleve

                                          I'm imagining some of my Jewish friends in France, Italy or Argentina experiencing Manischewitz...

                                          1. re: lagatta

                                            I have to say, that I do like some heavy Concord Grape on Passover. I'm not saying its good wine, I'm just saying that I like it!

                                            Many years ago, I was dating a guy and we went to his relatives for Passover. He and I put away and entire bottle of the concord grape and let me tell you, I have never had a worse hangover in my whole life! I was SO sick!

                                            1. re: valerie

                                              Our most raucous and memorable seder ever - still recalled with a certain amount of fondness - involved my two sons (who were probably in high school at the time), a few of their friends (whose parents were also at the seder) and the 20-something-year-old Hebrew school assistant teacher who led them all down the path of Manischewitz. We talked, we argued, we laughed...it was one for the books.

                                        2. re: Nyleve

                                          Last year I told my mother-in-law to bring wine & her companion (not Jewish) brought a bottle of regular - not kosher for passover wine. I saved it for the next time they came over.

                                      2. Finally a Passover post on this board! I don't usually post on this (usually on Manhattan or tristate) but I am hosting Passover for the 1st time too. I am an Ashkenazi Jew and not very religious, more of a cultural jew. My mom or my sis always hosted so now me and my catholic husband have a dining room to fit 14 so it's our turn.

                                        Here is our menu:

                                        MINIMAL APPETIZERS
                                        Mixed nuts
                                        Celery & carrot sticks

                                        Hard-boiled eggs (traditionally served as part of sedar so do not do deviled eggs)
                                        Charoset (Guests to bring)
                                        Gefilte fish (I taste-tested the following: Manishewitz regular--too fishy, Manishewitz Gold--too sweet and smooth and Mrs Adlers, the one that says "serve chilled with horseradish!" was the best and the least fillers and no MSG)
                                        Horseradish of all types (Gold's plain grated and grated with beets and fresh horseradish)
                                        Shankbone for seder plate (have substituted a chicken bone roasted in the oven with a little paprika)
                                        Matzoh (Streit's)

                                        Chicken soup (I will make as clear a soup as possible then parsnip and carrots at the end)
                                        Matzoh balls (guests to bring)
                                        Soup mandelen (these are the little soup nuts (crackers) by Manishewitz that are a tradition for my family)

                                        Brisket with potatos and carrots (Joel Siegel’s Brisket of all things, but recipe looks great and you can find it online. Also takes care of 1 side dish since a bunch of carrots and 2 lbs new potatoes go in)
                                        Green Salad
                                        Sweet Potato Tzimmes (Pesach Sweet Potato Tzimmes from cooks.com)
                                        Matzoh Kugel (Guest to bring)
                                        Steamed broccoli

                                        Almond macaroons (store-bought)
                                        Joyva chocolate covered raspberry rings (couldn’t resist!)‹JESS
                                        Choc macaroons (home-made by guest)
                                        Other desserts: flourless choc cake, choc-covered matzoh, other
                                        cakes,tortes, etc. (Guests to bring)

                                        Passover wine (Manishewitz)
                                        Grape juice (for the kids to use instead of wine)
                                        Seltzer, diet root beer (just 'cuz we like it!)

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: jessheslin

                                          I hate Manischewitz! I'm not Jewish, but have strong Jewish connections, however they are European - or South American - and like real wine, not boozy sweet stuff.

                                          Fortant de France has good kosher wines that aren't expensive - of course their are posher ones; just pointing these out for people who can't spend a lot or don't want to.

                                          1. re: lagatta

                                            I second that about the wine there a many good kosher wines - even on the sweet side -

                                            1. re: weinstein5

                                              Just to clarify we get regular wine (kosher or not, we're not strict) and Manishewitz for tradition's sake. It's a big nostalgia thing for this UWS jew :)