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Fresh recipes for Passover

And finally, the meal is served. After dessert, and the final bit of matzo, the service continues with joyous songs and prayers.

At sundown on Friday, April 6, Passover will begin as Jews all over the world gather around dining tables. They'll light festival candles. They'll read ancient prayers and passages from the Haggadah. They'll sit at tables set with gleaming silver, pressed linens, Grandmother's china, or maybe just a hodgepodge of plates. Each place will have a wine glass, because drinking wine or grape juice is an essential element of the ceremony.

Set before the ceremony leader, most often the eldest of the family, is a Kiddush cup, perhaps made of silver. Another special cup is placed on the table, and later the door opened, for the arrival of the Prophet Elijah.

Glasses are filled four times and prayers intoned over the wine. We are prompted to drink, to reflect. On a special Seder plate that's placed in front of the leader are symbolic ceremonial foods. Karpas, parsley or lettuce, which is tasted dipped in salt water or vinegar, to symbolize the renewal of spring, as well as tears shed; haroset, a sweet mixture of fruits and nuts to resemble the mortar used by Jewish slaves in Egypt; maror, a bit of horseradish with a few greens, to remind us of the bitterness of slavery our ancestors experienced. Also on the plate are beitzah, a roasted egg, a symbol of life and a triumph over death, and z'roa, a roasted lamb shank, symbolizing the ancient Passover sacrifice. Some vegetarians might substitute a roasted beet.

On a separate plate are three pieces of matzo covered by a cloth or placed in the folds of napkin. Matzo symbolizes the unleavened bread the Jews ate during the Exodus from Egypt and is the only bread allowed throughout the seven days of the Passover holiday.

The service, the prayers, readings and songs celebrate the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. During the ceremony Jews also commemorate and mourn the lives lost through the Holocaust, genocide, hatred and violence. My Haggadah calls for "all people to be free." It is the holiday of liberation. Often an empty chair is placed at the table, symbolizing Jews who live in places where they cannot celebrate this holiday.

And then, finally, the meal is served. After dessert -- cake, compote, macaroons -- and the final bit of matzo, the last thing eaten on this special night, the service continues with joyous songs and prayers.

Recipes follow -- some are from me, some from favorite books and others I am proud to present from great Pittsburgh cooks and synagogue cookbooks. A few side dishes and one great Matzo Brei will run next week, to make your holiday even more festive.

I have tried to be sure that all foods are suitable for this holiday. You'll need to look carefully at labels to be sure products are kosher for Passover.

Have a happy holiday.

Pickled Salmon with Roasted Beet Horseradish

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A sparkling fresh change from gefilte fish, also, it's easier. If you like, serve it with purchased beet horseradish, instead of the roasted beet one. Make up to 2 days in advance. If you have room in your fridge, plate these ahead of time, wrap and chill for easier serving. Each person gets a small piece of fish, with onions and carrots.

  • 1 1/2 pounds skinned salmon fillet
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1 cup)
  • Roasted Beet Horseradish, for serving

Rub salmon with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Cut in half down center separation, then slice crosswise into about 10 11/2- to 2-inch-thick pieces.

In large, deep skillet, stir water, vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, coriander seeds, allspice and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Add red onions and carrots; reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer 5 minutes.

Add salmon. Spoon onions over, and reduce heat so liquid is barely simmering. Cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until salmon is still a little "pink" in center (it continues cooking in hot liquid). Transfer salmon to shallow baking dish; spoon onions, carrots and pan juices over. Discard bay leaf. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours. Serve with Roasted Beet Horseradish (recipe is on Page E-3).

Makes 10 small servings.

-- Miriam Rubin

Prune and Wine Pot Roast

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This was contributed by Carol Congedo to Pittsburgh's Temple Sinai cookbook. Use a rich, dry red wine, kosher -- but not the uber-sweet type. Prepare this a day ahead and reheat to serve.

  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless beef chuck pot roast
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted prunes
  • 1 cup dry red wine

Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Add onion, and stir around in pan until starting to soften. And tomatoes and water; bring to boil. Cover, reduce the heat to very low and simmer 1 hour. Turn roast and partially cover so some liquid can evaporate. Simmer 1 hour more.

Remove beef from pot and carefully (it's hot) carve into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Return to pot with any juices. Add carrots, prunes and wine; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until very tender, 45 to 60 minutes more.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

-- Carol Congedo

Carrot and Fresh Pineapple Tzimmes

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Make the day before and reheat if you like, or serve at room temperature.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 6 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 cups (1-inch chunks) peeled and cored fresh pineapple (half a large pineapple)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush large heavy baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil.

Put carrots on prepared baking sheet. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, sugar, ginger, salt, cinnamon, pepper and allspice. Roast, stirring several times, until tender and caramelized in spots, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add pineapple and honey. Mix well. Roast, turning once, 5 minutes. Add raisins, if using, and roast 5 minutes more, until pineapple is hot and carrots deeply browned at edges. Serve hot.

Makes 8 servings.

-- Miriam Rubin

My Favorite Chicken Soup

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Really Mimi Sheraton's favorite chicken soup, but mine now. I used a parsley root I pulled from the garden but I had no celeriac, so I added another parsnip. Serve with Matzo Balls and a few slices of cooked carrot and chopped dill or parsley.

  • 7 to 8 pounds chicken parts
  • 10 to 12 cups water, or more as needed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 2 celery stalks with leaves, whole or cut up
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 Italian parsley sprigs
  • 1 (or 2) small parsnips, peeled and cut in half
  • 1/2 small celery root (celeriac), peeled (I used an extra parsnip instead)
  • 2- to 3-inch length parsley root, scraped and cut in half
  • 1 medium leek, green and white part, split and well washed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch sugar

Put chicken in a close-fitting 6- to 7-quart enameled or stainless-steel soup pot; add 10 to 12 cups water to cover. (Pot will look full; if too full, divide into 2 pots.) Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a bare simmer, and skim foam as it rises to surface.

When foam subsides, add all other ingredients, except pepper and sugar, with 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer, partially covered, pressing chicken down in pot, turning it a couple times, until chicken is very tender and just loosening from bone, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add more water during cooking if chicken is not seven-eighths covered.

Remove chicken and bones. Discard vegetables. Strain soup through fine sieve and return to pot if it's to be served in 2 or 3 hours. Cut chicken meat into small pieces to add to soup or for salad.

Soup may be made ahead to this point. Cool thoroughly, uncovered, cover and refrigerate up to 2 days (or freeze for longer storage). Skim off fat just before reheating. Add pepper and sugar and more salt, if needed, when reheating. Serve very hot with Matzo Balls.

Makes 12 to 13 cups soup, 6 large or 8 or more small servings.

-- Adapted from "The Whole World Loves Chicken Soup: Recipes and Lore to Comfort Body and Soul," by Mimi Sheraton (Warner, 1995)

Matzo Balls

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You could also shape matzo balls ahead of time, put them on a plate, and keep covered in the fridge for about an hour until ready to cook.

  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 heaping tablespoons chicken fat or softened margarine
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup matzo meal (I used 2 tablespoons more)

With fork, beat eggs lightly with water in large bowl. Add chicken fat or margarine, stirring until dissolved. Add parsley, salt and pepper.

Gradually stir in matzo meal, 2 tablespoons at a time, being very careful after 2/3 cup has been added so it doesn't suddenly become too thick. Consistency should be of soft mashed potatoes and a bit spongy. (I added 2 tablespoons more matzo meal.) Cover and chill 5 to 7 hours.

Thirty minutes before serving, bring large saucepan of water to boil and add a handful of salt. With wet hands, shape matzo mixture into 3/4-inch balls. Drop gently into boiling water, cover loosely, reduce heat, and let simmer at a moderate pace 20 to 25 minutes, until they puff up and rise to surface. Cut one in half to see if it's cooked. Remove with slotted spoon. Cooked, drained matzo balls can be kept in warm spot a couple hours before serving, then reheated a few minutes in the soup. Leftover matzo balls may be refrigerated up to 2 days, and reheated in soup or water. Makes about 15 matzo balls.

-- Adapted from "The Whole World Loves Chicken Soup" by Mimi Sheraton

Almond Macaroons

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This delicious and very easy recipe comes from caterer Colleen Wolfson, a member of Rodef Shalom. She got it from a friend who said it had been in the family "forever." Until 2004, Rodef Shalom held a Passover bake sale and this cookie was a popular item. Mrs. Wolfson, owner of Desserts by Colleen, also teaches children's cooking at the synagogue's religious school. These macaroons are crisp and lightly rounded. The real bonus is that you don't have to whip the egg whites.

  • 2 cups slivered almonds (8 ounces)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper -- silpat doesn't work here.

Put almonds and 1 tablespoon sugar in food processor and grind to a fine meal. Add remaining sugar and salt; pulse to blend. Add egg whites and almond extract. Process to make a fairly firm mixture that almost rolls into a ball. If it's crumbly, add a tablespoon of water. If it seems runny, space cookies further apart.

Drop batter by scant tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until just starting to brown on tops and edges. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely. Store airtight or freeze.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

-- Colleen Wolfson

Matzo and Spring Vegetable Bake

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This is based on a matzo stuffing recipe I discovered poring through online archives of "The Jewish Criterion." It was in a March 1942 story from Doris Turnheim called "Memories In The Cook Pot: Reminding you of Passover Recipes." I liked the idea of baking broken-up matzos with savory fresh spring vegetables. This can be a vegetarian main dish for 3 or 4, but it's not vegan as it has eggs. They could probably be omitted but I didn't try it. You can make it a day ahead and reheat, uncovered to serve.

  • 5 matzos
  • 1 kettle of boiling water
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium leek, well rinsed, diced, rinsed again and drained (1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 sweet white onion, chopped (1 heaping cup)
  • 1 cup chopped tender celery with some leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 6-ounce package baby spinach
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 9-by-9-inch glass baking dish with foil and lightly oil.

Break matzos into large bowl; pour boiling water over, press down with spoon and let stand 1 minute, until mostly soft. Pour into colander and press down with spoon to remove the water. Wipe out the bowl and return soaked, drained matzos to bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add leek, onion and celery; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned and tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in thyme. Add spinach, in batches, stirring, adding 1 to 2 tablespoon water if pan gets dry. Cook and stir until wilted.

Add eggs to matzo and beat well with spoon. Stir in vegetables. Scrape into prepared baking dish. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake, uncovered, 40 to 45 minutes, until browned, puffed, and bubbly at edges. Serve hot.

Makes 8 side-dish servings.

-- Miriam Rubin

Poached Apricots with Lemon and Thyme

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This recipe called for apricots only, but I didn't have enough so I added some prunes. I think it worked beautifully. In my family, we'd call this fruit compote and serve it spooned over slices of sponge cake or by itself, in a small dish, accompanied by hot tea.

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound dried apricots (or a mixture of apricots and pitted or unpitted prunes)
  • 6 thin half-moon slices lemon, seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Few gratings fresh nutmeg

Stir orange juice, water, honey, sugar, lemon zest and juice and cinnamon in large heavy saucepan. Bring to boil. Add dried fruit and lemon slices, return to boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer until fruit is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in thyme and nutmeg. Transfer to serving bowl, cover and chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 4 cups, 8 servings.

-- Adapted from "Jeff Nathan's Family Suppers: More Than 125 Simple Kosher Recipes," by Jeff Nathan (Clarkson Potter, 2005)

Roasted Beet Horseradish

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  • 3 to 4 medium-small beets, stems trimmed to 1 inch, scrubbed (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3-ounce piece (about 6 inches long) fresh horseradish, peeled and rinsed (to yield 3/4 cup grated)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put beets in small baking pan and add water. Cover with foil and roast until very tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour. Let stand until cool enough to handle; rub off peel and trim rough ends. Coarsely grate into small bowl using box grater (you should get about 1 1/4 cups).

Fit food processor with grating blade and grate horseradish (or use a fine microplane grater). Take care; horseradish releases volatile oils that can burn eyes and face. Fit food processor with metal blade; process grated horseradish until finely chopped. Add to beets.

Stir in lemon juice, sugar and salt. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour, or up to 4 days, tasting before serving to see if it needs more lemon juice, sugar or salt. Makes about 11/3 cups.

-- Miriam Rubin

Israeli Salad

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This crisp, chopped salad is from "Incredible Edibles," a cookbook compiled by the congregation of Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh. A pretty way to serve it is to spoon it into crisp romaine leaves arranged on a platter. Serve it before the main course, while it's heating or being carved. Make it 1 to 2 hours ahead, and drain off some of the juices before serving.

  • 1 hothouse cucumber, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 (14-ounce) package Campari tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, coarsely chopped (I used a red pepper)
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet white onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped radishes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients. Taste, adding more lemon juice or salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 6 cups, 6 to 8 servings.

-- Temple Sinai's "Incredible Edibles"

Sweet Apple Matzo Kugel

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Served as a side dish to chicken or brisket, this does double duty as a dessert. It's from "A Table Before Me: Contemporary & Traditional Jewish Cuisine," produced by the Congregation Beth Shalom Sisterhood of Pittsburgh. This recipe is from Ilene Fingeret. Make it a day ahead if you like, and reheat to serve.

  • 4 matzos
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 to 3 apples, peeled and chopped (I used 2 large Granny Smiths, a heaping 2 cups chopped)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I used golden raisins)
  • 4 tablespoons margarine, melted, plus 1 tablespoon cut up

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish.

Break matzos into large bowl and soak in cold water to cover until soft, breaking them up more as they soak. Drain in colander, but do not squeeze dry. Dry bowl. In same bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir in matzos, then apples, nuts, raisins and melted margarine. Scrape into prepared baking dish. Dot with cut-up margarine.

Bake, uncovered, until browned and firm, 45 to 50 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

-- Ilene Fingeret

Miriam Rubin: mmmrubin@gmail.com . First Published March 29, 2012 4:00 AM