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Sur La Table-Style Recipes for Passover and Easter

For the past 38 years, I have been a traveling cooking teacher, and am the author of 25 cookbooks. At Sur La Table, a well-known cooking school, I taught a class called Cooking For Passover And Easter. The people who attended were a wonderful mix of ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. After class I was amazed when most of the students who were not Jewish approached to tell me that they were making my special lamb, the Pineapple Kugel, and the chocolate desserts for their Easter Dinner! I was surprised and pleased. Foods are not just for one religion or another but are meant to be shared and appreciated by all the participants at a holiday feast.

A few years ago, Washington Hebrew Congregation, a very large Reform synagogue, invited me to teach a class of about 40 people from interfaith marriages. The emphasis was to be on “How to Start Your Own New Traditions” for Passover, which would include a speech on “How to Write Your Own Hagaddah” and “How To Tailor Make Your Own Seder.” A demo of new and unusual recipes was also included. I was assured that a committee would make up samples of what I was going to demonstrate and would serve them. I spent a lot of time writing handouts, samples of hagaddahs we put together every year, etc. I was out of town teaching cooking until two days before my presentation.

My phone was ringing off the wall when I returned, and the committee chairwoman informed me that 1) no one would make samples for eating at my class and 2) 185 people had signed up! I had to act fast. I picked her up, we went to the store, and returned to my kitchen to prepare samples for everyone. Luckily my recipes are “fearless, fussless” and don’t take much time, so everything was done in an evening. The program was wonderful, and I was touched that one gentleman thought it was a potluck program, and came with a casserole (for about 6 to 8) that he had prepared!

Here are some recipes from those two classes. They aren’t kosher, but depending on the rest of the meal you are cooking, most (not the leg of lamb) can be adapted.

COOKING FOR SPRING HOLIDAYS: Passover and Easter for Sur La Table

Tired of serving the same old same old for these holidays? How about starting some new serving traditions for your family and friends?

Roasted Onion and Shallot Soup
4 medium onions, peeled and thickly sliced
12 large shallots, peeled and halved
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsps sugar
6 to 8 fresh thyme sprigs
6 Tbsps white or brown rice (optional at Passover)
3 cups Swanson’s vegetable stock (must be this brand)*
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup sherry or white wine (do NOT use cooking sherry)
3/4 cup cream or half-and-half
chopped parsley for garnish – optional

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place onions and shallots on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil; toss vegetables to coat lightly with oil. Sprinkle vegetables with salt, sugar and thyme sprigs.

Roast, turning vegetables occasionally, 45 to 50 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Place vegetables in a soup pot. Add rice, if using, vegetable and chicken broth . Cover pan and simmer 35 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs.

Using a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade, puree soup (this may have to be done in batches); return to pan. If you have an immersion blender you can puree it right in the pot.

Stir in sherry and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream, mix well, and heat just for a minute or two (do not let it boil) and serve.

*If you can’t use Swanson’s vegetable broth, use ALL 6 cups of chicken broth or stock

Marinated Leg of Lamb
This is my favorite holiday and company dish. Besides the great taste, I love the fact that I begin marinating it (in a large glass pyrex lasagna dish) about 4 days before grilling it for dinner. This leaves me free to do other things (like reading a book) before the company comes since everything else was made ahead or frozen and is defrosting in the refrigerator or on the counter.

2/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbsps fresh squeezed lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsps chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp oregano
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 cup thinly sliced onions
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 to 7 lb leg of lamb, boned, slit lengthwise (butterflied), laid flat and trimmed of fat
1 tsp salt

Four days before serving, make the marinade by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, and bay leaves in a large shallow glass baking dish.

Add the onions and garlic. Lay the meat in the marinade, and spoon some of it over the meat. Cover and let the meat marinate in the refrigerator for four days, turning the meat every few hours (if possible) or a few times a day.

About 45 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to broil, or heat up your barbeque grill.

Without drying the meat off, place it fat side down, on a rack about 4-inches from the heat in the broiler or on your grill. Throw the onions on too if you’d like.

Sprinkle the meat with the salt and broil for about 15 minutes – do not baste.

Turn the meat over with tongs to avoid puncturing it, and moisten it with a little of the marinade. Sprinkle it with a little more salt. Broil or grill another 15 to 20 minutes.

The meat is done when it is pale pink inside with a dark brown crust.

Let the meat sit 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Remember when you cut the meat, it will oxidize and get darker (inside) after a minute or two.

To serve, slice the meat against the grain into thin slices and place on a serving platter. Serve with cooked onions if desired. Serves 8 to 10.

Green Beans Greek Style
Prepare the beans the day before serving, wrap them, and refrigerate them. Also make the dressing, refrigerate it in a closed container, and mix them together right before serving. My guests like to eat them as an appetizer with their fingers!

1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans
3 Tbsps lemon juice
2 tsps Dijon mustard
freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsps olive oil
1 Tbsps canola oil (or 4 Tbsps olive oil in total)
2 Tbsps finely chopped red onion

Trim the ends off the green beans, keeping the beans whole.

In a covered pot over medium heat, cook the beans in a small amount of water for just a few minutes. Remove from the heat while beans are still crisp. Drain beans and rinse in cold water several times.

Drain beans again, wrap them in a paper towel, and refrigerate until serving.

Prepare the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and oils.

When well mixed, stir in the chopped red onion. Cover the dressing and refrigerate until serving. To serve, place the beans in a serving dish, stir dressing again and pour over the beans. Garnish with onion slices and olives. Serves 6.

Pineapple Kugel
You don’t have to be Jewish to love this and use it all year as a vegetable.

1-1/2 cups sugar
4 cups farfel
6 large eggs
20 ounce can crushed pineapple with juice
2 sticks margarine or butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

Place farfel in a large bowl and pour enough hot water over it to cover it. Let it sit for a minute, then squeeze it dry, and drain by tossing it in a colander to remove excess water.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Add all ingredients to the farfel and place in prepared pan.

Bake for about 45 to 60 minutes or until the top is slightly golden brown. Serves 8

Sweet Potato Surprise
32 oz. baked sweet potatoes
4 Tbsps dark brown sugar firmly packed
1/2 tsp orange extract
2 tsps vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsps raspberry jam
1 cup crushed pecans
3 tsps melted butter or margarine -optional

Preheat oven to 350F.

Lightly spray a shallow baking dish with vegetable spray.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, brown sugar, orange and vanilla extracts and the cinnamon.

Mash with a potato masher until mixture is smooth and well mixed. Don’t use the food processor.

Divide mixture into 24 portions and shape each into a half-inch thick patty. Using a finger, make a half-inch indentation in the middle of each patty.

Spoon 1/2 tsp of jam into the indentation. Carefully shape the patty around the jam and mold into the shape of a ball. Roll each ball in the crushed nuts.

Place in the prepared pan and drizzle lightly with melted butter.

Bake at 350 F for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve 10 to 12.

Passover Mandel Bread
3/ 4 cup oil
3 /4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla or 2 tsps orange liquor or orange juice
3/ 4 cup cake meal
1/ 4 cup matzo meal
2 Tbsp potato starch
1/ 2 cup finely chopped pecans
3/ 4 cup chocolate chips
1/ 4 cup sugar mixed with 1/ 2 to 1 tsp cinnamon for topping
In a large mixing bowl beat together the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla (or orange juice).

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients, and carefully add the dry ingredients, beating just to blend on low speed.

Cover the bowl with a plate and let batter rest for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F.

Cover a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and grease the foil.

Divide the dough into 3 logs, place on the foil, and bake at 350F for 30 to 40 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned and when a cake tester is inserted in the middle it comes out clean.

Remove the cookies from the oven, cut into slices, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, turn pieces onto their sides and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. Makes about 30 pieces.

Chocolate Snowballs
This marvelous, indescribable dessert came from a restaurant in Cleveland many many years ago, and is a must for chocolate lovers.

The snowballs should be made a day in advance, since they have to “rest” in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. They keep for several days.

10 oz. good semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup coffee
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
5 large eggs
whipping cream
confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp dark rum

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt the chocolate with the coffee slowly in a double boiler over simmering water. Let cool to room temperature.

In an electric mixer, mix the melted chocolate and the sugar until combined.

Piece by piece, toss in the butter, mixing well.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat mixture for 2 minutes.

Pour mixture into a greased, deep (at least 3 – 4-inch deep), heavy glass or enamel baking dish.

Bake for an hour. Allow snowball mixture to cool, then refrigerate overnight, covered, or at least 8 hours.

Scoop chocolate mixture with an ice cream scoop to form individual balls.

Cover each ball with whipped cream sweetened with powdered sugar and rum.

Passover Ice Cream Mold
[For those who keep kosher, this can only be served with a vegetarian meal]

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1/3 cup orange juice
1 pint heavy sweet cream
1 can (10 ounce) Passover macaroons
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen strawberries
8 tsps orange juice

Soften ice cream in a large bowl.

In a large bowl crumbled the macaroons and mix together with the 1/3 cup orange juice and the softened ice cream.

Whip the whipping cream and fold into the ice cream mixture.

Pour into a large spring form pan and top with the almonds. Place in freezer until 15 minutes before serving. Remove sides of pan and place on serving platter.

Heat strawberries and the 8 tsps of orange juice until they come to a boil. Serve over ice cream or serve on the side for guests to take, if desired. Here are some additional recipes I used when teaching New Traditions for Passover at Washington Hebrew Congregation. They come from two of my cookbooks, Simply Irresistible…Easy, Elegant, Fearless, Fussless Cooking and A Taste of Turkish Cuisine (which I wrote with a co-author, Nur Ilkin).

Sephardic Haroset from Turkey
Haroset is using during the Passover seder to portray the bricks and mortar the Israelites used to build the Pharoah’s storehouses. Ashkenazic Haroset (Charoset) is usually made from chopped apples, chopped walnuts, sweet red wine or grape juice and a dash of cinnamon.

Sephardic Jews around the world use many different fruit mixtures. During the holiday it is also used as a spread on matzoh.

8 oz. pitted dates
8 oz. raisins, dark or golden
2 cups grated peeled apples
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
orange juice or wine to moisten.

Grind (chop in a processor or blender) all the fruits together.

Moisten with juice or wine. Stir in nuts. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Chocolate Farfel Nut Clusters Makes 30 to 40
These chocolate candies are great for any occasion. Be forewarned…you will probably eat most of them yourself!

14 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups matzo farfel
1/ 2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup dried cherries, nuke in water in micro for 30 seconds and squeeze out water
1/4 to 1/3 cup cut up dried apricots
Mini marshmallows or golden raisins–optional

Preheat oven to 350F. Place 36 ruffled paper baking cups (1 1/ 2-inches in diameter) on a baking sheet.

Melt the semi sweet and unsweetened chocolate in a microwave safe dish in the microwave.

(Heat for about 45 seconds, remove dish, stir chocolate, and if not all melted, heat again in 15 second increments so chocolate melts but does not burn. Or, in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate.

Pour the melted chocolate into a large bowl.

Spread farfel out in a jelly roll pan and toast farfel in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the matzo farfel and pecans to the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly.

Stir in dried cherries, dried apricots, and mini marshmallows if using.

Spoon this mixture into the ruffled paper baking cups.

Place in freezer and freeze until set, then store in an airtight box or plastic box and refrigerate or freeze until using. Makes 36.

A new way to serve gefilte fish. I tell people who think they don’t like gefilte fish that it is “horseradish dip.”

14 ounce jar any type gefilte fish, drained
1 Tbsp or more white Horseradish
1 tsp lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 to 2 tsps salt

In a bowl, mash the fish with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

This spread can be molded if the mold is first lined with plastic wrap.

Cover and refrigerate. Serve with crackers or matzoh. Serves 10.

Green Olive Walnut Spread
This can be made a day ahead and stays in the refrigerator for a few days, or it freezes beautifully.

1 cup pitted green olives (with or without pimento), chopped
1/ 2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/ 2 cup green onions, chopped
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsps lemon juice
1/ 2 tsp crushed red pepper
fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except the salt and pepper in a food processor. Process JUST until the spread holds together and be careful not to puree!

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Serve with matzoh or on lettuce as a salad.

Serves 8

Turkish Carrot , Onion , Garlic & Yogurt Spread
Carrots will never be the same after you’ve eaten this dish! Turkish zucchini can be used instead of the carrots, but a tsp of dried mint needs to be added to the dish.

7 Tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
3 to 4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Drained Yogurt (place 2 pints of yogurt in a cheesecloth lined colander and drain at room temperature for 5 hours, discard whey/liquid)
2 tsps Aleppo pepper or paprika
olives, optional

In a 3-quart pot, heat 5 Tbsps of the oil and sauté the onions, stirring over medium heat for 5 minutes. Do not let them brown or burn.

Add the carrots, stirring to mix well, and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Crush the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle.

Place the cooled carrots in a large bowl and add the drained yogurt and the garlic mixture. Mix well and place in a serving dish.

Combine the remaining 2 Tbsps of olive oil and the paprika and drizzle in a design over the top of the carrots, decorate with olives if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 8.

Horatio’s Velvet Chocolate Mousse
You can make this ahead of time.
I found this unique mousse in Hawaii. After eating 3 bowls full I begged the owner of the restaurant for the recipe, since it was like no mousse I had ever tasted. The secret: this one is made with cream cheese, and feels like velvet in your mouth!

12 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsps vanilla
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup whipping cream

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar and the vanilla until very light and fluffy–about 10 minutes, making sure sugar is well dissolved. If texture is grainy when you taste it, then beat longer.

Add the cocoa and beat until the mixture is smooth and the cocoa is dissolved.

In another large bowl, with an electric mixer at high speed, whip the cream until soft peaks form. If you over beat cream, you get butter–so be careful not to over beat.

Fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture one half at a time, using a rubber spatula.

Divide the mixture into individual dessert dishes or glasses or spoon it into a large serving bowl.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Serves 10 to 12.

Cinnamon Balls
1 1/ 2 cups ground almonds
1/ 3 cup superfine sugar (I used regular)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 large egg whites, beaten until soft peaks form

In a bowl combine almonds, sugar, cinnamon, mixing well.

Fold in beaten whites.

Wet hands and form in small balls (about the size of a walnut) and place on a lined cookie sheet.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Bake about 14 minutes. Balls should be soft inside. If desired dust with confectioners sugar.

Makes about 16 balls.

Sheilah Kaufman

Sheilah Kaufman is a traveling cooking teacher and author of 25 cookbooks.