Whenever I’ve hosted seders on the second night of Passover, I’ve worried — probably needlessly — that I should offer the family and friends at my table something different than what they had the night before.
The main course is easy to juggle. There are alternatives to brisket and potato kugel. But what about the hardboiled eggs, apple and walnut haroset and gefilte fish?
Two decades ago, I began expanding my Passover horizons. While my family had come to America from Germany and Lithuania in the 1880s, most of my friends also had roots deep in Ashkenazi countries.
I sought out Sephardi Jews and researched Passover recipes from Mediterranean Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Because the Sephardi Jews I met had emigrated from warm climates, their ceremonial seder foods were fresh and light, brimming with green vegetables and herbs and bursting with sun-kissed dates.
Variations started with the karpas, the green vegetable representing spring. While Ashkenazi Jews dip parsley in salt water to represent the tears of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, Sephardim dip celery into a bowl of vinegar to symbolize the harshness of slavery.
In Morocco, haroset comes in the form of balls that are made from ground nuts, raisins and dates, wrapped in lettuce, representing the greenery of spring. One bite creates a burst of sweetness so much more subtle than sugar but equally compelling.
Food writer Edda Servi Machlin describes in her cookbook, “The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews,” the frittatas Italian Jews enjoy at Passover. This tempting egg dish can be served in place of hardboiled eggs and will enliven any seder menu.
Many French Jews serve cold-poached salmon and a creamy, dairy-free herb sauce. More colorful than its cousin, gefilte fish, this dish has an elegant air that’s so very French.
Because I was mesmerized by an entirely new repertoire of seder foods, I simply had to prepare them at Passover. I knew sharing these foods with loved ones would not only give them an adventure in dining, but an opportunity to step beyond the Ashkenazi world of Central and Eastern Europe, where most American Jews are from.
Why is the second night of Passover different at my house from all other nights? Because we are trying Jewish food we never had before and opening our tastebuds to a real treat.
Moroccan Haroset | Pareve
Yield: 30-34 haroset balls
1 cup each: pitted dates, raisins, blanched almonds and walnuts
2 tablespoons grape juice
20 lettuce leaves cut in half
Optional: matzah broken into squares
Fit a food processor with a metal blade. (If the bowl of your food processor isn’t large enough to hold all the ingredients, process the ingredients in two batches.)
Place the dates in your food processor’s bowl, and process them until they have broken into tidbits the size of raisins. Add the raisins, almonds, walnuts and grape juice. Process until the nuts are finely ground and the mixture clumps together.
Using your palms, roll the mixture into balls ½-inch in diameter. If your palms become sticky, rinse them under water.
Serve the haroset balls wrapped in lettuce leaves. Or make matzah-haroset sandwiches by placing a haroset ball between two squares of matzah and wrapping lettuce around it.
Asparagus Frittata | Pareve
Serves 12 as an appetizer
Equipment: 10-inch cast-iron skillet in good condition and seasoned (coated) with oil
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
20 asparagus spears
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 or more
1 medium onion, diced finely
Break the eggs into a medium-sized bowl. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Whisk until the eggs are frothy. Reserve. Snap off the fibrous ends of each asparagus spear and discard.
Cut off the tips. Then slice the remainder into half-inch lengths. Reserve them with the tips.
If the broiler feature is inside your oven, place a rack on an upper rung but not on the top rung. Close the door and preheat the broiler.
On a medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in the cast-iron skillet. Add the onion and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the asparagus and 1 tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle on a little more salt. Sauté until softened but not cooked through. Add more oil at any time, if needed.
Whisk the eggs again until they are fluffy. Pour the eggs into the skillet. Shake the skillet so the eggs move evenly between the ingredients. Leave the skillet on the flame until the eggs are set at the bottom but raw at the surface.
Using an oven mitt, move the skillet to the broiler. Broil for 5 minutes, or until the eggs are completely set and golden brown. The edges may begin to brown and curl.
Using oven mitts, remove the skillet from the oven, and place it on a trivet on the counter. Place a round platter over the skillet and turn the skillet over so that the frittata slides onto the platter.
Serve immediately or cool it to room temperature. This recipe can be made 2 days ahead, if cooled, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.
Return the frittata to room temperature before serving or reheat in a 350-degree oven.
With a serrated knife, carefully slice it into narrow pieces.
Chilled Salmon with Herb Sauce | Pareve
Nonstick vegetable spray
Kosher salt to taste
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
1½ lbs. salmon fillet from the thickest part of the salmon and with the skin on
Garnish: sprigs of parsley and dill
Preheat the broiler. Line a broiler-proof pan with aluminum foil. Spray it lightly with nonstick vegetable spray.
Sprinkle the salt and garlic powder on both sides of the salmon. Place the salmon skin side up on the broiler pan. Broil it for 5 minutes. Turn the salmon and broil it for another 7-8 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through, pink in the center, not red.
With a spatula, move the salmon to an attractive platter. Bring it to room temperature, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours.
When ready to serve, decorate the platter with sprigs of parsley and dill. Serve with the herb sauce below. Cut it into 8 slices.
Herb Sauce | Pareve
Yield: 1 cup
⅓ cup fresh dill tightly packed
⅓ cup fresh parsley tightly packed
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
¾ cup light mayonnaise
Place the dill and parsley into a food processor. Pulse on and off until they are chopped.
Add the remaining ingredients. Process them until the ingredients are completely chopped into a smooth green sauce.
Move the sauce to an attractive bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.