I am sure that many Jews, if asked what their favourite Jewish holiday is, would immediately answer Passover, and if asked about their favourite holiday meal, the answer would be the seder.
People’s lives are demanding and hectic today, and the Passover seder may be one of the few or only times of the year when all the generations sit down together. Sitting at the seder table with family, friends and guests, we relive the story of our exodus from Egypt. We read the Haggadah, discuss, ask questions and sing somewhat silly songs, and we continue the traditions of our forefathers and make new traditions for our children.
Preparing for Passover need not be difficult. Each year, more and more new kosher for Passover products become available. There are many different types of matzah, the store-bought cakes are delicious, new dairy products including low-fat and no-fat are in the supermarkets, and blueberry muffin mixes and pancake mixes are available. Preparing for Passover has never been so easy.
BAKED SALMON WITH BASIL OIL
This dish can easily be doubled or tripled and can be served as a first course for the seder or a main course dinner during the rest of Passover.
4 6-oz. salmon fillets, skin on
1/3 cup olive oil
oil for baking dish
1 cup fresh basil leaves
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
4 sprigs of basil for garnish
Preheat oven to 250. Season the salmon with a few drops of the olive oil and put the fillets on an oil-coated baking dish. Wash and drain the basil leaves and dry them thoroughly. Make a basil oil by pureeing the leaves in a blender with the remaining olive oil until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Bake the salmon for 10 minutes. If the skin peels away easily and the salmon flesh flakes when tested with a fork, it is done enough, even though it may not look it. If you prefer it well done, return it to the oven for another 3 minutes. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the basil oil lightly over the salmon and serve. Makes 4 servings.
LEMONY POTATOES AND SCALLIONS
This has been a favourite seder side-dish for many years in my home, as well as during the rest of the year.
2 lb. small new potatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup finely chopped scallions
Scrub the potatoes thoroughly and dry them, or peel if desired. Heat the oil in a large skillet or covered casserole over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes. Cook for several minutes and shake to coat them with oil. Lower the heat and add the garlic, broth, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Cover the pan tightly and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the point of a knife, about 20-25 minutes. Shake the potatoes from time to time to make sure they are not sticking to the pan.
Remove the potatoes from the pan and continue cooking the liquid, uncovered, until it is reduced and somewhat thickened. Add the scallions and cook for a minute or two, then pour the sauce over the potatoes and serve. Makes 6 servings.
MAIDA HEATTER’S CHOCOLATE WALNUT TORTE
I have never tasted a recipe from Maida Heatter that I didn’t love. This rich chocolate sponge nut cake is wonderful! Although the recipe states that it serves 6 to 8, I find that as a seder dessert, after the large meal, it will serve more.
12 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted
8 oz. walnuts, finely ground
pinch of salt
powdered sugar for decoration, optional
melted semisweet chocolate for decoration, optional
Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl of an electric mixer at high speed, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in the chocolate and fold in half the nuts. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until very softly peaked, then gradually beat in the remaining sugar and continue beating until the egg whites hold firm peaks but are not dry. Stir a little of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in about half the remaining egg whites. Finally, fold in the remaining nuts and the rest of the egg whites. Spoon the mixture into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Bake 75 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and turn upside down on a rack. or suspend, upside down over the neck of a bottle, until completely cooled. Use a knife with a thin, stiff blade to loosen the cake from the pan by running the knife carefully and closely along the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. It may be dusted with powdered sugar or drizzled with a lacework of melted chocolate. Makes 6-8 servings.