Four Questions

questions.inddWhere does it say that brisket is the dish of choice on Passover? Where does it say that gefilte fish is de rigueur? Where does it day that sweet wine is a must? And where does it say that one is obligated to replicate everyday food rather than going with natural food that can be eaten anytime?

The Lampert Library’s staff (me) has researched the questions: there are no rules. Much of what’s served- other than ritual foods- is just custom and what was available or what could be adapted. Even among the ritual foods there is a lot of choice.

For years I served the same thing at every holiday meal, for isn’t that part of what a holiday is? It’s part gastronomic memory: the smells and the tastes which recall the people around the table.

But there is a whole world of Jewish cooking out there that extends the cultural experience of food. So my current Passover food rule is- channeling Michael Pollan- if it comes from a box and lists more than three ingredients, don’t use.

The following recipes are perfect for almost any holiday. Substitutions for Passover are simple. In fact, most of them aren’t specifically designed for Passover and are year round favorites in my house.

Haroset is one exception. If you missed the food demonstration during on March 7, one of the stars of the show-along with  beautiful poached pears- was the very versatile ginger infused haroset. Add some apricots and/or pomegranate molasses or use it as a condiment like chutney, with cheese or a topping for rice pudding. For those who missed it, here’s the link to the recipes.

What’s a formal meal without a bowl of soup? This celery soup uses the celery stalks from grow your own kappas demonstrated at the cooking session.

March 11 celery soupCreamy Celery Soup from Jamie Geller (6 servings)

Extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white part only, sliced thinly
6-8 celery ribs, about 1 pound, leaves reserved for garnish, sliced thinly
1 large Russet potato, peeled and diced
8 cups chicken broth  (or parve bouillion)
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Garnish: celery leaves, crispy potatoes or potato sticks, drizzled olive oil (optional)


  1. Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium heat.
  2. Cook the leeks and celery until very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add potato and broth and continue cooking until potato is cooked through.
  4. Puree soup in a blender or using an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning.
  5. Divide soup between serving bowls. Garnish with celery leaves, crispy potatoes and drizzle of good olive oil (optional).

To make the crispy potatoes

  1. Slice potatoes very thin. You want pieces about 1-3 inches in diameter, depending on size of your soup bowls and potatoes.
  2. Toss lightly in olive oil
  3. Place on a baking sheet, lined with foil or parchment if you like. Bake at 400 for a few minutes until crispy and slightly brown. The time will depend on exactly how thick the potatoes are and how much moisture they have.
  4. Sprinkle on top of soup just before serving. Stored air tight they will keep for several days.

A salad is always good when a heavy meal follows.  This one has complex flavors and colors. Change the proportions to suit your family’s taste. This is a good way too use the romaine leaves left from grow your own maror from the cooking session.

March 11 bitter herb saladBitter Herbs Salad from New York Times (serves 6)

2 hearts of romaine lettuce
1 small head of raddichio
2 Belgian endives
1 1/2 cups of arugula or watercress
1 rib celery (from the heart, if possible), sliced very thin
2 scallions, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup dill
1 Tablespoon fresh mint (optional)
1 small garlic cloves
slat to taste
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil


  1. Break romaine leaves into bite sized pieces. Cut radicchio leaves into bite sized pieces. Slice endives crosswise about 3/4 inch thick.
  2. Toss with other greens, celery and scallion in a large bowl.
  3. Sprinkle herbs over the top.
  4. Mash the garlic with a generous pinch of salt, work in lemon juice and olive oil. Taste and adjust salt. Store in a jar until ready to pour over salad or put everything in a mini food processor and process until finely mixed.

Hint: the greens can be prepared ahead of time, wrapped in a towel and placed in plastic bags. Assemble and dress the salad just before the meal.

Almost every who knows me, knows that I’ve always disliked beets. It’s one of the few vegetables that just don’t appear on my dinner table -ever.  However, my husband Marc really likes beets. So this colorful salad is for him. And, if like me, you don’t like beets, just leave them out.

March 11 beet saladBeet Salad (serves 8)

Using already cooked beets make this a very simple dish to put together. Find beets vacuum packed in most markets.

4 medium beets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cups mixed greens, optical
2 oranges, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup toasted nuts such as walnuts, pecans or pepitas (optional)
1 cup fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary


  1. If starting with raw beets, Preheat the oven to 425. Spread the beets in a single layer on a greased baking sheet and season with 1 teaspoon salt.
  2. Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes, uncover and roast for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  3. Slice beets into desired size.
  4. Combine balsamic vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper and mix beets with dressing.
  5. When ready to serve add sliced oranges to beets and mix with greens.
  6. Top with nuts and herbs if desired.

As an alternative to brisket or chicken is this salmon. It’s delicious and can be partially prepared ahead of time. It’s become one of my go to salmon recipes. For a fancy dinner, make sure to use the jewel-like pomegranate seeds.

March 11 pomegranate salmonPomegranate Molasses Salmon (serves 4)

4 boneless salmon fillets, skin on, or  1 to 1 1/2 pound piece of salmon
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon potato starch (corn starch if it’s not Passover)
Black pepper- or try Aleppo pepper for its mild, slightly sweet taste
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses at room temperature. (Available at many markets but it’s easy to make your own)
nonstick oil spray
Fresh pomegranate seeds and mint for garnish (optional)


  1. Place rack in middle of oven and preheat to 300 degrees.
  2. Rinse fish in cold water and pat dry.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, salt, and starch. Rub the flesh side of salmon with mixture. Sprinkle with pepper.
  4. Spray a large pan with cooking spray and heat on medium high until hot. Place salmon flesh side DOWN and sear for 1-3 minutes until a crispy crust forms. Don’t crowd the pan.
  5. Gently turn the salmon and sear the skin side for 1-2 minutes. (a flexible fish spatula is ideal for this)
  6. Remove the salmon from the pan onto a lightly grease or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush with the pomegranate molasses.
  7. Place in preheated oven and cook for 8-12 minutes until the salmon is done to your liking.
  8. Serve garnished with pomegranate seeds and fresh mint if you like.

If chicken is more to your taste, Michael Solomon’s chicken preparation only gets better as it sits. Can’t find kumquats? Substitute clementines or mandarin oranges. They are in the same family.

March 11 Chicken with kumquatsChicken thighs with kumquats and olives from Michael Solomonov (Serves 3-4)

1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
4 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
½ of a medium onion, sliced
1 tsp tomato paste
¼ cup chopped parsley, divided
¼ cup chopped dill, divided
½ cup chopped green olives
juice of 1 lemon
12 fresh kumquats, halved
1 tsp sumac ( a lemony powder common in Middle eastern cooking)


  1. Make ahead: Mix paprika, coriander, cumin, kosher salt. Coat chicken thighs in the spice mix, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
  2. Take chicken out of refrigerator. Heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Place chicken in pan, skin-side down, and cook undisturbed until well browned, approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Remove chicken from pan and add garlic and onion. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Add tomato paste and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add 1 cup water to pan and using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, scrape bottom of pan to release good browned bits.
  4. Add kumquats plus half of parsley and dill. Place chicken, skin-side up, back in pan. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Add the olives, lemon juice, and the remaining herbs to the pan and simmer for another 3 minutes to allow the ingredients to come together.
  6. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Spoon the sauce over the top, sprinkle with sumac, and serve.

HINT: You may use chicken breast, but adjust the time so that they don’t overcook. 

The beauty of this side dish is that it can be made any time of year and has healthy spinach, too. Buy Passover Israeli couscous (or egg barley) for use during the holiday.

March11 Israeli couscousIsraeli Couscous and Spinach Pilaf  (Serves 4-6)

 1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound fresh spinach
1/4 c raisins (optional)
olive oil
1 cup dry Israeli couscous
1 1/2 cups broth


  1. Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil.
  2. Add spinach and raisins if using.
  3. Stir in the couscous and sauté for a minute or two.
  4. Add 1 1/2 cups liquid and salt to taste.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

HINT:  If using powdered broth, reduce salt. Sauté some mushrooms and add to pilaf. if desired. Frozen peas will also work, as will asparagusThis dish keeps  well and is adaptable. make sure you purchase Gluten free couscous makes with a P 

March 11 cheesecake brownie cupcakesCheesecake Brownies or Cupcakes from Nina Safar, Kosher in the Kitch (makes a 9×12 pan or 12 cupcakes)

Ingredients for Brownie Batter
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of potato starch
1/2 cup of cocoa (use Hershey’s cocoa for the best taste!)

Ingredients for Cheesecake Batter
3 8oz. containers of whipped cream cheese
1 cup of sugar
4 eggs
1 8oz. container of sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Prepare the brownie batter and pour into a 9×13 pan.
  2. Then combine the cheesecake ingredients in a mixing bowl and layer on top of the brownie batter.
  3. Bake uncovered on 350′ for about an hour.
  4. When you remove the pan from the oven the cheesecake will not be completely firm but will harden outside the oven.
  5. (These are also great served as cupcakes. If making cupcakes, fill halfway with brownie batter then top with cheesecake batter. Bake them in cupcake pans on 350′ for 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked through)

March 11 chocolate almond spice cookiesThese Chocolate Almond Spice Cookies  are flavored with warm spices like cinnamon and ginger. There are two kinds of chocolate, as well as almond flour, so they are gluten free.  Use this link to the recipe: Passover From Soup to …, April 2, 2020

Who’d ever think of vinegar for dessert? But as a marinade for strawberries it turns them into something special to serve over fruit, on ice cream, spongecake or brownies or even alone is an elegant crystal dish.

March 11Balsamic Strawberries   Serves 6

1 pint ripe strawberries, hulled, sliced or quartered
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
sprinkle of black pepper


  1. Place strawberries in bowl and toss with vinegar and sugar.
  2. Cover and allow to rest on counter for about an hour so that berries will “juice” then chill in the fridge for another hour.
  3. Toss again before serving.

Hint:  These don’t keep well, so try to eat them the same day you prepare them.

So many recipes and not enough space. You’ll just have to wait until next year for

Farfel Muffins, Grandma Shirley’s Chicken in Wine Sauce, Passover Mac and Cheese, and Passover Brownies, so good you’ll eat them year round.

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