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By Jane Ammeson
Passover, the eight day religious holiday commemorating the Jewish people’s escape from slavery and exile in Egypt in 1300 BCE, is a time for family, neighbors and friends to get together to rejoice in their freedom. The holiday always begins at sundown on the 15th day of the Jewish lunar month Nissan which occurs in either March or April.
Also known as Pesach, which is a Hebrew word meaning to spare or pass over, the holiday is a time for joy but also a time for remembrance.
“During Seder which takes place on the first two nights of Passover, we read about what happened then,” says Sondra Levin of Benton Harbor, Michigan whose family celebrates Passover each spring and who notes that doing so gives observers of the holiday a chance to connect both historically and emotionally to a time when their ancestors were freed from slavery.
Passover is a reference to how it is believed that God passed over the Jews while afflicting the Egyptians, who had enslaved them, with ten plagues. For the 10th plague, the Jews were instructed to mark their doors with the blood of sacrificed lambs so that they would be “passed over.” And though the holiday is joyous, the remembrances of these hard times when Moses led the exodus of Jews out of Israel is reflected in the foods that are traditionally part of the holiday fare.
“Many of the foods that are served are to remind ourselves that we were once slaves in Egypt,” says Levin who notes that salt water is served at Seder to reflect the bitter tears engendered by slavery. “We eat a lot of eggs also during Passover as we’re not supposed to eat anything leavened during the eight days and eggs help lighten the foods up.”
And as fitting in a holiday that celebrates family gathering together, Levin, who is the director of the religious school at Temple Bnai Shalom in Benton Harbor, uses many recipes that have been in her family for years including a recipe for brownies given to her by her mother Rose Gelder and one for dinner rolls that belongs to her sister Cindy Burch who lives in St. Joseph, Michigan.
Matzo, which is an unleavened bread, is a major part of the Passover culinary tradition.
“We’re supposed to eat matzo during Passover,” says Sondra Levin. “That’s because when the Pharaoh finally freed the Jews and Moses led them out of Egypt, they didn’t have time for their bread to rise and so they took unleavened bread with them.”
The unleavened bread baked in the hot sun of the dessert as the Jews fled turning into a hard cracker like consistency.
According to Susie Fishbein, author of “Kosher by Design,” matzo is called “the bread of affliction as it nourished the Jewish slaves in Egypt.”
Matzo can be used in many ways such as in soup where it is formed into a large ball and simmered in a rich chicken stock.
Sondra Levin’s Matzo Brei (fried matzo)
2 whole pieces matzo
One half teaspoon salt
Oil for frying
1. Break up matzo into pieces. Soak in plate with enough water to cover, for about 3 minutes.
2. Drain matzo and squeeze out water very well.
3. Add eggs and salt and mix well.
4. Heat oil in frying pan. Add matzo/egg mixture and fry on both sides until crispy.
This recipe serves two and can be multiplied to serve more.
Matzo Ball Soup
From www. Manischewitz.com
Two tablespoons oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
one half cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soup stock or water
Mix fat and eggs together. Mix and add matzo meal and salt. When well blended, add soup stock or water. Cover mixing bowl and place in refrigerator for at least twenty minutes. Using a two or three quart size pot, bring salted water to a brisk boil. Reduce flame and into the slightly bubbling water drop balls formed from above mixture. Cover pot and let cook 30-40 minutes. Have soup at room temperature, or warmer, and remove matzo balls from water to soup pot. When ready to serve, allow soup to simmer for about 5 minutes. Recipe makes eight balls.
Sidebar: Seder Foods
In her fascinating book “Kosher by Design,” author Susie Fishbein writes “no one ate alone at the first ‘Seder” in history. On their last night in Egypt, every Jew was commanded to eat the Passover offering of roast lamb (or goat) along with matzo and bitter herbs. Each household was to consume all of the meat and if the family was too small, they had to invite a neighbor to join them. And this is the way the Passover offering was eaten in Jerusalem for centuries. This Torah-mandated hospitality is unmatched in its power to guarantee warm camaraderie and national unity.”
Now days, the Seder (pronounced ‘say-der’) table has another purpose as well, continues Fishbein, who says that it is designed to teach young children about the exodus from Egypt.
Thus the foods of the Seder continue to be an important part of the Passover tradition.
“In Israel, the Seder takes place on the first night of Passover,” says Sondra Levin of Fairplain. “But here it takes place both on the first and second nights.”
Levin explains that the reason for this is because in Israel everyone knows when Passover will occur while in this country it sometimes isn’t as well known.
There are six food items arranged in a significant order on the Seder plate. Each one has a special significance in telling the story of the exodus from Egypt. According to www.wikipedia.com, they are:
• Maror; Bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Ancient Egypt.
• Charoset; A sweet, brown, pebbly mixture, representing the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt.
• Karpas; A vegetable other than bitter herbs, such as celery or cooked potato, which is dipped into salt water at the beginning of the Seder.
• Z’roa; A roasted shank bone, symbolizing the korban Pesach (Pesach sacrifice), which was a lamb offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, then roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.
• Beitzah; A roasted egg, symbolizing the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.
• Matzos: Unleavened bread.
Sondra Levin’s Charosets
3 to 5 apples, finely chopped
Walnuts, finely chopped
Red sweet wine—a small amount
Mix all ingredients. Levin notes that she doesn’t use exact measurements and just tastes and adds ingredients as she goes so that the constituency of the dish is thick but the taste is sweet.
Rosa Gelder’s Passover Brownies
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup matzo cake meal
Two thirds cup cocoa
One half teaspoon salt
Chopped walnuts (optional)
1. Mix first 3 ingredients together.
2. Add the last 4 ingredients and mix thoroughly.
3. Bake in 9” x 13” oiled pan at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Do not overtake.
Cindy Burch’s Passover Rolls
2 cups matzo meal
Three fourth teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup water
One half cup oil
1. Combine first 3 ingredients
2. Combine water and oil; bring to boil and add to first 3 ingredients. Beat the mixture.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing each one.
4. Let dough stand in refrigerator at least 15 minutes.
5. Bake on greased cookie sheet 50 minutes at 375 degrees.
Sondra Levin’s Spinach Pie
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, grated
1 package frozen chopped spinach
One half cup water
4 egg whites, beaten
One half cup matzo meal
One and one half teaspoon salt
One eighth teaspoon pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Coat a 9” pie plate with oil or cooking spray.
3. Cook onion, carrots and spinach in the one half cup water until spinach is defrosted.
4. Drain, let cool 5 minutes.
5. Put above mixture into medium bowl and stir in beaten egg whites, matzo meal, salt and pepper.
6. Pour mixture into pie plate and bake 45 minutes.
This can be made ahead, refrigerated and reheated.
Sondra Levin’s Sweet Potato Kugel
1 cup grated apple
1 cup grated sweet potato
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup matzo cake meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup orange juice
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Mix all ingredients except oil together and put in 9” x 13” baking dish.
3. Pour oil over top.
4. Bake 45 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered.
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|Print article||This entry was posted by Barbara Kingstone on January 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm, and is filed under American, Cuisine. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|