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Passover Seder

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Passover Seder

Why is this night different from all other nights? It's a Blue Cleaver seder! Get out your haggadot and buckle up for our primer.

Passover Seder

If you're celebrating the holiday in New York, we highly recommend a trip to the Essex Street market to visit Schapiro's wines. You can taste before you buy, choosing from the classic concord grape, some equally sweet white wines, or even a grandma-friendly Tokay. Not necessarily much better than Manischewitz in terms of taste, but you can feel good about supporting a family-run New York State winery. Besides, there are definitely going to be people craving a sugary grape fix come mealtime, because as that dude playing the fiddle on the roof exclaimed, it's tradition.

Schapiro's Malaga Wine, Passover Seder

Matzo, Passover Seder

When you're done at Schapiro's, pop around the market for all your cheese, produce, nuts, and dried fruit needs, then head around the corner to Streit's to stock up on freshly baked matzos and the like.

Since everyone is meant to be drinking four glasses (a.k.a. a bottle) of wine during the seder, you might want to have your guests tote along some kosher hooch. Most wine stores here in NYC do kosher wine tastings in the lead up to Passover, and it's fun to find the tasty ones. We did indeed chug the equivalent of one bottle each at our last seder, most of us beginning the evening with a kosher prosecco, moving through some respectable Italian and Israeli red wines, soldiering through the classic Malaga from Schapiro's, then finishing the evening with Schapiro's Tokay served cold with a twist of lime.

Seder Plate, Passover Seder

The seder plate is key, kids. Get thee some bitter herbs (parsley and wasabi for us), fresh horseradish, charoset, an egg, a wee bowl of salt water, and a roasty toasty lamb shank. (That last bit comes to you gratis from any butcher around NY come Passover week.) Forget anything here and your seder just ain't right.

Charoset, Passover Seder

Charoset is meant to resemble the mortar used in building by the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, but it needn't taste like it. Skip bland Ashkenazi versions and rock it Persian-style. We make a paste in the food processor using dates, bananas, golden raisins, and a blend of roasted walnuts and almonds. Season with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger, and add a bit of sweet wine and honey for smoothness. It's so good you'll want to make it as a spread all year round.

Matzo Man Toy, Passover Seder

All ritual and no play makes for a dull seder. For the irrevocably grown up, it's customary to have a roundtable about what freedom means to us today. For kids and kid-like adults, one might like to add some extra songs in addition to ye olde Dayeinu.

Chad Gadya Accessories, Passover Seder

Hit up your local Judaica store for some kitsch. Dancing dolls don't hurt, nor do these fun foam masks that represent all the actors in Chad Gadya. People will fight over the Goat, the Stick, and the Angel of Death, if memory serves.

Passover Toy

While you're shopping for trinkets, don't forget a prize for the person who finds the afikomen at night's end. Aren't anthropomorphic matzo balls more fun than $5? Well, we think they are. Now, on to the food . . .

Course 1: Gefilte Fish

Gefilte Fish, Passover Seder

If you have a lot of time on your hands, and an empty bathtub capable of holding live fish, you might make gefilte fish the old fashioned way at home. If you enjoy eating unidentifiable lumps of food that emerge from a gelatinous sludge with a disgusting sucking sound, you might like to try canned or jarred gefilte. Or maybe you should just pony up at the local deli and get a fresh loaf of all-natural, sugar-free fish loaf. Just slice and serve with a heap of fresh horseradish.

Course 2: Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup, Passover Seder

This you better make yourself. Go all out and make your stock with a whole chicken, for Passover comes but once a year. Making the matzo balls is easy and fun. In the dense versus fluffy debate, we make fluffy. For each cup of matzo meal add four eggs and a glug of seltzer water, season with salt and pepper, mix, and let the dough rest in the fridge for at least one hour before using. It should be firm, and stay firm when you mold it, lest your balls fall apart. Get a pot of water boiling, plunk your hand-formed balls in one at a time, and watch for them to rise to the surface. Let them simmer there for about 40 minutes or so, perhaps testing one to be sure they're all fluffed up all the way through. Strain them out and set aside. You can make them in advance and then reheat them in your soup before serving. Always garnish the soup with a bit of fresh herbs as you serve. Tarragon or dill will work great.

Course 3: The Main Event

We vary this from year to year, but some classics are roasted chicken and stewed lamb. Anything you can throw in the oven whilst you enjoy the rest of the seder is ideal. Side dishes always include a kugel and tzimmes in these nostalgic parts. Kugels are made with potato or noodle mixed with other ingredients to make a sweet or a savory starch dish. Last year we made potato broccoli kugel by chopping up the aforementioned veggie pair, tossing them with matzo crumbs and a couple of eggs, dumping the mix into an oven-safe dish, and then topping it all with cheese. For a tzimmes, fill a second oven-safe dish with chopped sweet potatoes, dried figs, dried prunes, sliced apples, and sliced carrots coated with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg plus a bit of olive oil and sweet red wine. Bake both for an hour at 350F and you're set.

Course 4: Dessert

Chocolate Covered Matzo, Passover Seder

Some have made an art of desserts that defy Passover's prohibition on flour. We tend to embrace the restriction, making an old timey matzo meal pound cake (this year's was flavored with lemon zest and some sweet kosher wine) and the classic choco-matzo. Just melt some dark chocolate and slather it on to chucks of matzo, sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top, and set to dry. Any leftovers will please coworkers of all religious persuasions, we promise.

Post-Seder Recycling

By now you should be out of wine, so serve some coffee and tea. Soon, the guests will go home and you'll be left with a mound of dishes. Next year, if not in Jerusalem, at least in your momma's house!


Passover Seder Wikipedia Entry
Schapiro Wine Cellars

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