After attending two awesome Easter feasts with some of my friends from the Houston Food Blogger Collective (shout out to Lisa and Lauren), I felt inspired to host a small Passover celebration. I wanted to expose them and some of our other foodie friends (Renee and Erika) to traditional Jewish foods for my favorite holiday. While Gefilta fish and bitter herbs can sound far from appetizing, I was excited to focus on some of the best parts of a Seder (the required 4 cups of wine, matzo balls the size of your fist, and addicting chocolate matzo crack to name a few).
To get started I looked at Smitten Kitchen and The Forest Feast, two of my favorite blogs for innovative modern twists on classic Jewish dishes. Deb from Smitten Kitchen cooks up some of the best recipes I’ve ever tried from her tiny NYC kitchen. I’m obsessed with my new Forest Feast cookbook and Erin’s story is fascinating. She left the big city to move into literally a cabin in the Northern California woods! I would die to go to one of her dinner parties surrounded by redwood trees, drool worthy vegetarian eats, and fresh craft cocktails. I’m also a big fan of Amy from What Jew Wanna Eat whose a fellow Texan, hysterical writer, and has creative fun recipes on Jewish classics like rainbow challah! Anyways, back to the holiday where no challah or carbs are allowed…
Passover foods primarily include meats, vegetables, and unleavened products. The Passover story is centered around the Jews escaping from 40 years of slavery in Egypt. When they left in the middle of the night, their bread didn’t have time to rise. This is why we eat flat matzo which is similar to a large cracker. We eat bitter herbs to symbolize the hard times in Egypt, and we drink four cups of wine to celebrate the freedom from slavery. My friends enjoyed learning about the story and customs of a Seder and we added some modern twists. Here are some highlights:
Instead of name cards, everyone had a plague mask at their seat! It’s easy to turn your Seder into a masquerade with these fun masks from Party City. It really helped everyone get into the Passover Story.
No Seder is complete without brisket. We all have high standards being in Texas- land of BBQ brisket heaven. Shout out to Evan for trimming a 17 lb Prime 1 brisket into this beauty. It was quite the production but so flavorful. I would normally recommend to buy it trimmed to save time, but this was a better quality of meat and it only came untrimmed. After he removed literally 9 pounds of fat (😱) I seasoned it with the following:
1 tsp paprika, 1.5 tsp each of onion powder & garlic powder , 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp each of dried oregano & thyme, 1 cup beef stock & 1 cup red wine, 1 cup ketchup, 1 cup chili sauce, and 1 cup of brown sugar.
I added 3 caramelized onions to the top before covering it all very tightly in tin foil. It baked at 350• for around 4 hours. After letting it cool and putting it in the fridge over night, you skin off the fat the next day. The full recipe can be found here: .
Matzo Balls were made from the Manischewitz box, they come out so fluffy! They were added to homemade chicken soup which Evan made in a pressure cooker. If you’ve never tried matzo ball soup, you’re in for a treat. It’s perfect for sick days, snow days, or any time you need a warm cup of of something soothing and nourishing. In Houston, you can try a cup at Kenny and Ziggy’s . My favorite matzo ball soup ever is right by my old apartment in NYC at the 2nd Avenue Deli. I still have dreams about ordering this off Seamless more often than I should admit…
Here’s the first course of our Seder: Matzo ball soup and the Charoset matzo “Hillel” sandwich. Charoset is a traditional Passover dish and it’s a lovely combo of apples, cinnamon, walnuts, and red wine. Here’s an easy recipe I used from What Jew Wanna Eat. Pro tip: Charoset leftovers are so delicious the next morning on plain yogurt or oatmeal!
I’ve been on a hearts of palm kick lately and this salad was a mix of arugula, hearts of palm, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, and pine nuts. Simple and delicious.
The #1 hit of the Seder that my friends keep talking about is this chocolate matzo crack! It’s seriously addicting and a perfect combo of chocolate caramel crunchy goodness. I highly recommend gifting it to your friends for all sorts of occasions. It can me made with saltines, but the consistency and crunch is better with matzo in my opinion. Here is the recipe, another Passover Hit from Smitten Kitchen.
Hope you all had a wonderful Passover this year, and feel free to share your favorite recipes below!