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Passover seder with a twist - Traditional foods with a contemporary approach

By Eileen Mintz

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You don't have to be Jewish to attend the Passover seders at Sazerac, the Southern-inspired restaurant in the Monaco Hotel in Seattle. The only prerequisite is a desire to attend one or the other, April 24 or April 25.

Chef/Partner Jan Birnbaum and Executive Chef Jason McClure have designated it Sazerac's ``Seder with an Attitude.''

``It will delight people of all religions,'' said Birnbaum. This traditional Passover service will be led by Rabbi Sandy Gould of Yeshiva B'Nei Torah and feature traditional Passover foods with contemporary additions.

Birnbaum's Passover menu has recipes from his grandmother, mom Judith, and aunt Ruth, who lived around the corner from him in Baton Rouge La.

``Aunt Ruth made delicious paprika potatoes with her beef dishes, but I have added in wild mushrooms and fennel horseradish salad,'' said Birnbaum.

This dish will be on the main course along with Nana's braised brisket and platters of tzimmes with prunes and raisins. Included also will be a ``Jewish Antipasto'' described as homemade gefilte fish with pickled carrots, chopped liver, crispy gribenes and tapenade. Seder meals include chicken soup with kneidlach and apple salad, recipes that are old and new, paired with wine.

``Each item on the Sazerac Passover menu symbolizes the essential element of a seder,'' said McClure.

If you are lucky enough to get a reservation at Sazerac's Passover seder, enjoy the efforts of one ``Big Dawg'' chef Birnabum and executive chef McClure.

SAZERAC'S HONEY RED WINE MARINATED APPLE SALAD WITH SPICED PECANS, CALIFORNIA RAISINS

Serves 6 to 8

4 cups red wine marinated apples

1 bunch watercress

1 bunch frisee lettuce

1 tbs. oil (Sazerac uses extra virgin olive oil)

6 to 8 matzo pancakes

6 to 8 oz. favorite goat cheese (optional)

Combine watercress and frisee in bowl. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper and divide salad mixture among the plates. Griddle pancakes and place one on top of each plate of salad. Top each pancake with a large spoonful of the marinated apples. Optional: Finish each plate with a slice of goat cheese if desired and serve.

HONEY RED WINE MARINATED APPLES

Makes 4 to 5 cups

1 lb. tart apples, peeled and cored into perfect1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup California raisins

1 tbs. grated fresh ginger root

1/2 cup red wine

1/4 cup honey

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

pinch of salt

twist of cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients and marinate for at least two hours or overnight.

MATZO PANCAKES FOR SALAD TOPPING

Makes 10 to 12 pancakes

1 cup cake flour

1 cup matzo meal

2 tsp. potato starch

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups apple juice

1 oz. oil

2 eggs, separated

Combine all dry ingredients. Add oil, juice and egg yolks. Whip egg whites and fold in. Griddle pancakes.

JUDITH BIRNBAUM'S CHICKEN SOUP

Birnbaum said his mom, Judith, who has since passed away, made this wonderful chicken soup for Passover.

``Seder at home brings great memories as does this soup recipe,'' he said.

Serves 6 or more

2 chickens, each between 3-to 4-lbs.

4 large onions, roughly chopped

8 ribs of celery, roughly chopped

3 carrots, roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

sprigs of parsley and thyme

1 tbs. black peppercorns

2 gallons of water

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot, bring to a boil. Skim off scum and reduce heat and simmer for several hours. Strain liquid, return to the pot and set aside to simmer. Pick the meat off the chicken and reserve.

FOR SOUP GARNISH

1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin coins

3 ribs of celery, cut into thin half moons

1 red pepper, medium dice

6 asparagus spears, sliced thin

Sauté vegetables lightly and set aside.

MATZO BALLS (Kneidlach)

1 cup matzo meal

4 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

Beat eggs. Add water, oil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add matzo meal, let rest for half an hour. Moisten palms with water and form matzo batter into 1-inch diameter balls. Drop into simmering chicken broth and poach for approximately 20 minutes.

Spoon matzo balls into bowls. Divide vegetables equally and ladle hot chicken broth to finish each bowl. Enjoy!

LOW-FAT VEGETARIAN BROTH

Why buy a can when you can make this yourself with less sodium? Serve with two matzo balls floating on top. From Healthy Happenings 800 Fast and Fabulous Recipes by Norene Gilletz. Yields 8 to 10 servings and reheats and freezes well.

8 to 9 carrots

3 large onions

2 leeks

6 stalks celery

2 -3 parsnips

1/2 of a medium turnip, op tional

1 red pepper, optional

1/2 parsley stem only

12 cups cold water

2 to 3 cloves garlic, optional

1/2 cup fresh dill sprigs (do not chop)

salt and pepper to taste

Peel vegetables and cut them into chunks. Combine vegetables in a large pot with parsley stems and water. Water should cover vegetables by about an inch. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes. Add garlic and dill. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes longer. Season broth with salt and pepper to taste. Strain through a fine strainer. Serve with matzo balls.

LOW-FAT MATZO BALLS FROM A MIX

Author and friend Norene Gilletz wrote the cookbook ``Healthy Helpings.'' She shared this recipe with a great hint, you can even make low fat matzo balls using a matzo ball mix. She said that her mom freezes the matzo balls on a cookie sheet and then transfers them to a plastic freezer bag. She reheats them frozen right in the soup! Thirty-two calories a matzo ball with this recipe with half as much cholesterol.

Yield 12 matzo balls

1 egg plus 2 egg whites

1 tbs. oil

1 tbs. water, chicken broth or club soda

1 packet matzo ball mix

2 1/2 quarts salted water

In a small bowl, blend egg, egg whites, oil and liquid with a fork. Add matzo ball mix and mix well. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes.

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Wet your hands and shape mixture into 1--inch balls. Drop matzo balls into boiling water, cover pot very tightly and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and transfer to warm chicken soup or vegetable broth. Hint: freezes well in the soup.

DIANE MEDVED'S PASSOVER TURKEY STUFFING

Medved told me that she grows the herbs in her garden and ``loves the Waldorfy-salad taste'' that she now associates with this holiday.

1 1/2 pound of matzo farfel

3 onions, chopped

handful of fresh-picked rosemary stems (use the leaves and discard the stems)

1 heaping cup walnuts, chopped

1 bunch celery, sliced

1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced

3 to 4 apples, cubed

1 to 2 green peppers, chopped

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 to 2 tsp. all purpose seasoning (Season All)

1 to 2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

6 eggs, bea^often

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup non dairy margarine- Nucoa) melted in microwave

Mix all ingredients thoroughly; stuff turkey or cook in a crock pot several hours with turkey parts.

``Still excellent cooked in a separate casserole, covered,'' said Medved.

DIANE MEDVED'S HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE LOAF

Medved told me this recipe is definitely worth the trouble. She also said that there is another cookbook that I just have to have, called Daf Yummy and sold as a Seattle Kollel fundraiser. The Seattle Kollel has several ongoing classes on Mercer Island and one of them meets at Medved's home. Check out the website, www.seattlekollel.org And to think, they even have a class called Torah with a Twist of Chocolate!

1 cup hazelnuts, roasted and skinned

1 6 oz. package chocolate chips

5 1/2 tbs. unsalted margarine, room temperature

1/2 tbs. potato flour (potato starch)

4 egg yolks, room temperature

4 eggs whites, room temperature

1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease a 9 x 5-inch pan and dust with matzo cake flour. Melt about three-fourths of the chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave for about 45 seconds, then stir to smooth. Stir in margarine.

In a separate large bowl, beat egg yolks with mixer at medium speed, adding sugar gradually, until pale and thick.

Pour in chocolate /margarine and add almond extract. Combine and set aside.

In another bowl with very clean beaters, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff. With a rubber spatula, blend in half the nuts, a quarter of the beaten whites and the un-melted chocolate chips, then blend in another quarter of the beaten egg whites and the rest of the nuts. Gently mix in the melted chocolate and the rest of the beaten egg whites. Pour into pan and bake 55 minutes or until done (check for dryness in the center). Cool and unmold.

IMPORTANT TIPS FOR PASSOVER SUBSTITUTIONS

Baking: Substitute 5/8 cup potato starch for one cup of flour or use 1/2 cup matzo cake meal plus 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of potato starch instead of one cup of flour.

Ground Almonds can replace flour in cookies and cakes. Replace vanilla: 1 tsp.^of vanilla extract can be replaced with 1 tbs. Passover liqueur.

Passover Icing Sugar: Process one cup granulated sugar with 1/2 tbs. potato starch on the steel blade of a Cuisinart for 2 to 3 minutes until pulverized. Texture will be grainier than icing sugar. Makes one cup icing sugar.

Eileen Mintz can be reached by email at eileenmintz@comcast.net or by phone at 232-1984.

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