A Passover Seder for the Family

The traditional Seder is a joyous spring meal designed for family celebration!

By Jayne Cohen


A gaggle of giggling cousins, a rousing treasure hunt for much sought-after matzoh, songs, luscious treats-the Seder is meant for childhood memories. No wonder it's the best-loved of the Jewish holidays. Most Jews-and many non-Jews-attend a Seder, the special meal eaten the first two nights of Passover, an eight-day holiday in March or April, depending on the lunar calendar.

Set in the spring, the season for new life, Passover celebrates the rebirth of the Jews after their liberation from slavery. The large extended family and friends gather around the table, where through stories, songs, and prayers, they relive the Exodus from Egypt, and experience the universal struggle of all people to be free.

Traditions and Rituals
Many traditions and rituals are specially designed to keep children alert and excited during the long meal. Symbolic foods on the Seder plate make the Passover narrative come alive. Bitter herbs, like horseradish, evoke the misery, and salt water, the tears, of slavery. A delicious fruit and nut paste recalls the mortar used to build Pharaoh's cities.

Everyone shakes out ten drops from one of their four cups of wine. These recall the plagues visited on the Egyptians, and remind celebrants that their happiness is diminished because their enemies suffered greatly.

Matzohs, symbolizing the hastily prepared unleavened bread the Israelites ate on their escape to freedom, are the centerpiece of Passover. Matzoh, and meal ground from it, replace bread, flour, and all other grain products, and leavening agents, like yeast, are not permitted during the holiday.

The Seder Menu
Passover restrictions inspire creative cooking. Thicken gravies without flour or cornstarch by boiling hard to concentrate flavors and then stirring in a puree of sweet braised garlic.

Transform plain matzoh into fragrant flatbread: dampen matzoh lightly with water, sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper, fresh rosemary or minced garlic. Bake in a hot oven until toasty.

Bring spring to your table with colorful bouquets of daffodils and tulips. Serve fresh asparagus, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a squirt of lemon. Or dress them up with a simple topping: stir together matzoh meal, chopped hazelnuts or pistachios, and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toast in a moderate oven until golden.

Brighten soup and matzoh balls with fresh herbs: dill, parsley, chives.

While many people associate Seders with sweet Concord wine, there are excellent kosher dry varietals available. Why not offer your guests both? And have plenty of grape juice for the kids, as well as adults who don't drink.

Then, as the Passover book, the Haggadah, says, "Let all who are hungry come and eat."

The recipes for this menu are from:
The Gefilte Variations: 200 Inspired Recreations of Classics from the Jewish Kitchen with Menus, Stories, and Traditions for the Holidays and Year-Round by Jayne Cohen