Tonight is Passover eve and since I have some Jewish blood in me, I figured this is the right time to tell you about a really fun dinner party I attended last weekend.
My dad’s side of the family is Jewish and although I lived in Israel ages 12-15 (middle school) I have to be honest that I don’t know enough about all the traditions in detail. For example – Passover to me (and this is the extent to which we followed it) is a week long holiday during which you’re not allowed to eat leavened bread. I’m ashamed to admit that that’s kind of all I seem to remember from my torah studies in Israel.
So when Cara reached out to all the local Jewish food bloggers with an idea of a dinner party honoring the tradition of Passover with a twist, I was excited to learn more and of course participate in the eating
A few non-Jewish blogger friends joined us as well. Aside from Cara and me, Shannon, Jen, Megan, Amanda, Renee and Melissa ended up sharing a fantastic Seder plate inspired dinner at Cara’s home!
[Our Seder plate]
This may get slightly geeky… bare with me Some Passover basics:
The holiday honors the the story of the Exodus, in which Israelies were freed from slavery in Egypt. It is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten. That’s why matzo, which is unleavened, is the primary symbol of the holiday. (Thanks Wikipedia )
On Passover eve, a Passover Seder (ritual feast) takes place, which begins with retelling of the Exodus story and eating (or merely placing) certain symbolic foods on the Seder plate. A traditional dinner follows, which actually does not have anything to do with the Sedar plate. That’s where Cara decided to combine the 2… a modern twist on the tradition. Why not?
We each decided to prepare a dish inspired by a symbolic ingredient on the Seder Plate. The “rules” stated that each dish should be following Passover guidelines (no flour and anything leavened, no wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye) and general kosher guidelines (no meat + dairy together, no shellfish, no pork) but otherwise it didn’t need to be traditionally Jewish. Pretty fun, no?
[Prepping for the meal ahead]
So much good food to be had!!
Here is what we came up with…
Melissa made the horseradish cauliflower latkes inspired by the chazeret (bitter herb), which symbolizes the bitterness of slavery the Jews endured in Egypt
These were a really fun twist on the potato latkes. Still crispy on the outside, soft on the inside… and a bit lighter/less starchy.
Renee made the charoset, which is a sweet, brown mixture representing the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt.
Jen used the traditional ingredients of charoset (nuts, apples, cinnamon) to make the crunchy apple slaw with cabbage, broccoli slaw, apples, almonds and scallions. Unfortunately I couldn’t have any due to the scallions but it looked super fresh and crunchy. I’m ready for summer!!
I made a massaged kale salad with roasted beets, goat cheese, walnuts and prunes, inspired by the karpas (green vegetable other than bitter herb) which is usually dipped in salted water which represents the tears of Jewish slaves.
[I “massaged” the kale with some lemon juice, basil EVOO and some sea salt, then added the mix-ins. Everyone seemed to really love it. I sure did ]
Amanda also made some horseradish and matzo crusted asparagus, which combined a few of the Seder plate elements (chazeret, karpas). Such a fun roasted veggie!
No Seder plate is complete without z’roa, which is typically lamb or goat shankbone, symbolizing the Passover sacrifice through lamb that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, then roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night (fun fact that I just learned – vegetarians substitute beets for meat…looks like I got it covered in my karpas inspired dish!). Cara tackled this job with her spiced lamb and pickled eggplant filled matzo crepes.
I am not typically a fan of lamb and was just going to have a bite not to be rude, but I absolutely LOVED this dish. It was definitely the highlight of the meal for me (partly because it was such a surprise). Cara braised the meat for hours, making the meat super tender while allowing it to soak up all the spices. It had a really great sweet and sour balance. If lamb always tasted like this, I’d be all about it
Last element of the Seder plate beitzah, which is hard boiled egg symbolizing mourning (over the destruction of the Temple and our inability to offer any kind of sacrifices in honor of the Passover holiday). Megan got this covered with her deviled eggs!
Let’s not forget the matzo!
Bloggers in action
Cara is an amazing hostess. Look at these pretty napkins that were on each plate (all different and so bright!).
… and of course there was Manischewitz wine which I’ve never had before. Yup, it tasted like grape juice. This stuff could definitely be trouble
Everything was so so delicious. Food bloggers definitely know how to cook! When it was time for dessert, Shannon’s wasabi white chocolate truffles with crystalized ginger were the perfect chazeret inspired dish!
[The wasabi was mellowed out by the sweetness of the smooth wine chocolate – the ginger actually added some bite. These little truffle babies were amazing!]
Cara also surprised us with a little bonus dessert – chocolate dipped almond butter merengues. Still kosher for passover!
Such a fun concept to honor the Passover tradition in a new way. I loved learning more about my culture and hanging out with old and new blog friends.
Hug sameah and happy Passover to my Jewish friends (and family)!!!
Do you usually celebrate holidays in traditional ways?