This year the first night of Passover fell on the same day as Earth Day. What a fantastic way to celebrate history, tradition and of course, food. Oddly enough, I am, and always have been, a secular individual. However, this year in a discussion with co-workers it seemed like there was interest in putting together a Seder for Passover.
Wait, what is a Seder? It’s a dinner commemorating and celebrating the Israelites’ liberation from bondage in Egypt. I was excited and also quite petrified. I have never hosted a Seder, nor have I been to one in many years–so, without a doubt I was nervous! I spoke to the expert, my mother, who gave me wonderful suggestions and sent me four Haggadahs, books of the Seder program, to help me along.
A traditional Seder has 15 steps and can take many hours. Being the only Jewish person among our motley crew I thought it would be good to cut it down and focus on certain pieces, so I referenced the 30 Minute Seder to help me out. I also wanted to connect it with Earth Day, so we tried to keep the food as local and organic as possible. An interesting note to make is that in Hebrew the word for Man is Adam, and the word for Earth is Adamah.
The Seder Plate:
- Karpas – Vegetables, such as celery or parsley, represent the lowly origins of the Jewish people, but also the birth of spring. We used parsley that we grew from seed.
- Beitzah – Egg is an ancient symbol for mourning and also a reminder of the circle of life. We used Organic Valley eggs and some from our neighbor.
- Maror – Bitter herbs symbolize the bitter times as slaves. I used horseradish sauce from our fridge.
- Zeroa – Roasted lamb shank to represent the Paschal lamb sacrificed to save the Israelites. In our case we used a yam–the vegetarian option (Paschal yam).
- Charoset – A mixture of wine, minced apples and nuts and cinnamon, to represent mortar used by slaves to build.
- Matzah – Flat, somewhat bland cracker (unleavened bread) which represents the rush to eat and no time to let bread rise.
Next to the Seder plate are bowls of salt water in which we dip the egg and parsley. Salt water symbolizes the sweat and tears of the Israelites as slaves.
Another important component is wine, which is enjoyed in healthy quantities. We had traditional kosher and non-traditional wine, as well as beer (I know is not kosher for Passover; I could only control so much!). My kids enjoyed grape juice made from the untreated concord grapes at our grandmother’s farm.
After the initial program, our menu continued with Matzah ball (similar to a dumpling) soup, fresh organic salad, a lovely Crispy Potato-Leek Kugel, chicken drumsticks and topped off with a divine flourless chocolate cake (recipe below) and organic ice cream!
Sharing food traditions is a great way to introduce people to new food, recipes and cultures. Everyone had fun and I was happy to share this experience with my guests, but mostly with my children. It’s wonderful to weave in stories and remember the reason behind our food traditions. Everyone even convinced me to sing–in Hebrew no less. It brought back so many memories and I’m grateful for moments like these everyday, good company, good food and lots of celebrating!
Flourless Chocolate Cake:
4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
1/2 cup Butter
3/4 cup Sugar ( I use less )
1/2 cup Cocoa powder
Grease an 8-inch round pan with butter. Line bottom of pan with parchment and butter again. Melt chocolates gently with butter in a saucepan. Stir in sugar. Let cool (or else you will have scrambled eggs in your cake). Set oven to 375 degrees. When chocolate mixture is cooled, beat in eggs one at a time. Add cocoa and beat well. Place in round pan. Bake about 25 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.