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Passover by Design by Susie Fishbein

A Meaningful, Flavorful Seder

-- Lisa Kelvin Tuttle

April 19th is the first night of Passover, and if you are hosting a Seder or two, chances are you are on the lookout for some wonderful new dishes to serve along with your family's traditional favorites. And what about having a refreshing conversation starter to keep your Seder guests laughing and talking? I am happy to let you know about two brand new books, released just in time for Pesach: Passover by Design, the long-awaited arrival in Susie Fishbein's fabulous Kosher by Design series, and Seder Stories: Passover Thoughts on Food, Family and Freedom by Nancy Rips. The first will have your mouth watering and the second will add a lively taste of the holiday from the sometimes-serious, sometimes-funny memories of the famous and the not-so-famous.

Let's Get Cooking!

Being the incurable cookbookophile that I am, opening the pages of Passover by Designwas like taking the lid off one of those Whitman Samplers — each recipe holding the promise of something wonderful inside to savor. And so with great anticipation, I began to "taste drive" the recipes.

As in her previous books, Susie makes cooks shine by helping us present simple ingredients and flavors in ways that are innovative, elegant and more often than not, show stopping. Say goodbye to same-old same-old. Even traditional Seder favorites like gefilte fish, charoset, potato kugel and matzo balls get the royal treatment here while keeping Pesach nostalgia alive with flavors and aromas our families love.

The book has gorgeous pictures of most recipes (taken by talented food photographer John Uher), tablescaping and décor ideas, along with a helpful guide to Kosher for Passover ingredients and a guide to preparing the Seder. As a courtesy for those who refrain from eating foods made with matzo or matzo meal during the holiday, designations of gebrokts (Yiddish for "broken," as in broken matzos) or non-gebrokts accompany every recipe.

Over 100 of the recipes are "Passover-adjusted" from earlier Kosher by Design books, accompanied by 30 brand-new recipes, many of which are exclusive dishes created for the book by star Manhattan kosher caterer Moshe David of Fig and Palm and Infinity Catering by Moshe. Though some of these are more intricate, they will add some great new techniques and a restaurant-style panache to your repertoire.

There are some fun surprises among Susie's ideas. One new idea I love adds both a touch of elegance and convenience to your holiday table. That is to give each guest his or her own personal colorful bento box — a Japanese divided box usually used for serving sushi. In her bento boxes, Susie serves each guest a portion of charoset, bitter herbs, salt water and vegetables for dipping, along with a small flask of water and hand towel for ritual hand washing during the Seder. These boxes can be purchased inexpensively in Chinatown or any large Asian supermarket, and, although a bit more pricey, on the Internet.

Passover by Design is one of the most beautiful cookbooks available and I know it will get lots of use over the years during Passover and all year long.

Seder Stories: Passover Thoughts on Food, Family and Freedom, by Nancy Rips.

There's No Seder Like Our Seder!

Seder Stories is a fun, new Passover anthology that is also a handsome little volume to keep on your coffee table during Pesach. Mixed in with anecdotes on memories of Seders past from 101 Jewish people are lots of quips, quotes, and musings on family, faith, and food, including many from famous folks, such as George Burns ("Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city"), Theodore Bikel, Alan Dershowitz, Rabbi Harold Kushner and Elie Wiesel.

Contributors share vivid Passover food memories, such as the man who recalls bringing sandwiches on Passover buns ("bulkies") for school lunch each day, wondering whether his Jewish classmates entering the cafeteria lunch line during Passover would be struck by lightening. Or the Southern writer who couldn't imagine having matzah balls without gravy or charoset without pecans in lieu of walnuts.

"Why is this night different from all other nights?" asks contributor Carin Davis. "On all other nights I eat one dessert, but on this night I eat three. . . . If I ate matzah balls, but not matzah brie, Dayenu (enough). If I ate matzah pizza, but not matzah lasagna, dayenu ."

Author, bookseller Nancy Rips, is an enthusiastic advocate for books, reading and libraries who has hosted numerous book review segments for radio. Nancy began collecting Passover stories during her volunteer visits to residents at an Omaha, Nebraska, senior center and was struck with the idea of publishing Passover stories as a Seder companion. A portion of the profits from the sale of the book will benefit the Kripke Jewish Federation Library in Omaha.

Seder Plate

* * *

Below are just some of the marvelous dishes and desserts from Passover by Design that I plan on serving at my Seder and throughout Passover this year. Each one has received "two thumbs up" (and requests of second and third helpings) from my family and friends, as I know they will from yours.

Wishing you a joyful and meaningful Pesach.

Until we eat again,


Creamy Peach Soup
Dairy or Pareve - Makes 6 Servings - Non-Gebrokts

This soup is a knock-out — beautiful, creamy, refreshing and unexpected. You can use frozen peaches; they are usually peeled.
  • 4 okra, thinly sliced to look like flowers
  • 8 large white peaches, peeled, pitted, cut into chunks juice and zest of 3 medium oranges
  • 3/4 cup jarred baby food carrots or puréed cooked
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or nondairy creamer
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 6 fresh chives, for garnish
  1. Place the sliced okra into a small pot of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3–4 minutes. Drain. Set aside for garnish.
  2. Place the peaches, orange zest, orange juice, and carrots into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until smooth. Add the cream or creamer, salt, honey, and lemon juice. Pulse until creamy.
  3. Serve the soup at room temperature or chilled, in bowls garnished with a few slices of okra and a fresh chive.
Greek Garlic Chicken
Meat - Makes 6-8 Servings - Non-Gebrokts

My family left nary a trace of this aromatic, wonderfully flavored chicken dish. Susie recommends garnishing the dish with some of the ingredients used to flavor it, such as fresh oregano sprigs and whole olives to bring some of those vibrant colors back to the dish.
  • 2 chickens, cut into eighths
  • 2 onions, cut into large chunks
  • 2 lemons
  • 12-16 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 8 cloves of garlic, halved
  • fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, whole, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in single layers, skin-side-up, into two 9- by 13-inch baking pans.
  3. Add the onion chunks. Slice the lemons in half lengthwise. Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken. Cut each lemon half into 4 pieces; add to the chicken.
  4. Set aside 4 sprigs of oregano and strip the oregano leaves from the rest. Scatter the leaves and the stripped sprigs over the chicken; they will add their perfume to the dish.
  5. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the oil and wine. Toss the mixture together. Sprinkle the chopped olives over the chicken.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until chicken is fully cooked and no longer pink, or a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees F.
  7. Transfer to a platter and garnish with whole olives and reserved oregano sprigs.

Thai Quinoa
Pareve - Makes 6-8 servings - Non-Gebrokts

Quinoa is the greatest discovery for Passover - a grain you can eat! Actually, quinoa is classified as an herb or berry and is considered halachically permissible for Passover by many kosher authorities — though since its status is ambiguous, consult with your rabbi for clarification. This tasty, colorful pilaf makes a great accompaniment to meat, poultry and fish; and since quinoa is so high in protein, it is a terrific addition to a vegetarian Seder.

  • 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves gently torn (discard stems)
  • 1/3 cups minced red onion (about 1/2 small red onion)
  • 1/2 firm mango, not too ripe, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/8-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lime juice
  1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly either in a strainer or in a pot, and drain. (Do not skip this step or a bitter, soap-like natural coating will remain.) Once the quinoa is drained, place it into a medium pot with the water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes, or until the grains turn translucent and the outer layer pops off. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the minced jalapeno, basil, cilantro, red onion, and mango. Drizzle in the oil, salt, and lime juice. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the drained quinoa and toss to combine. Season with salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted-Garlic Asparagus
Parve - Makes 6 Servings - Non-Gebrokts

Simple, elegant, healthy. What more could you want from a side dish? For a prettier presentation, you can trim the "thorns" from the asparagus with a vegetable peeler.
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped parsley
  • 2 pounds thin asparagus, ends trimmed
  • fleur de sel or coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a small pot, heat the oil, garlic, onion powder, and parsley on medium-low heat. Cook for 3 minutes, until the garlic mixture is fragrant but not browned.
  4. Spread the asparagus in a single layer on the prepared pan. Lightly sprinkle with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle on the garlic-oil mixture.
  5. Roast for 8–10 minutes, until the asparagus are bright green; do not overcook.
  6. Transfer to a platter and serve hot.
Giant Zebra Fudge Cookies

Giant Zebra Fudge Cookies
Parve - Makes 18 Large Cookies - Gebrokts

These cookies are stunning, with the contrasting black and white, and are so fudgy and delicious. Kosher by Design fans will recognize this cookie from Kosher by Design Short on Time and will be as grateful as I am to have the Pesach version!

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups matzo meal
  • 1 cup good-quality Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • confectioner's sugar*, sifted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line 2 large cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, mix the oil, sugar, matzo meal, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, and baking powder until a soft dough forms.
  4. Roll the dough into 18 balls slightly larger than golf balls.
  5. Fill a small bowl with confectioner's sugar and stir with a fork to break up any clumps. Lower the balls, one at a time, into confectioner's sugar and toss to coat heavily and completely. Transfer to prepared pans. Leave room between the dough balls, as the cookies spread during baking.
  6. Bake for 18 minutes. If you like, you can make smaller cookies; form walnut-sized balls and bake for 12 minutes.
  7. Cool completely.

*Conventional confectioner’s sugar is not kosher for Passover, as it contains cornstarch. This recipe for Basic Confectioner’s Sugar from Spice and Spirit: Kosher for Passover Cookbook is a snap to whip up: In an electric blender, blend 1 cup less 1 tablespoon sugar on high speed for 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons potato starch and whip for an additional few second. Store in a covered jar or container.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
Dairy - Makes 12 Servings - Gebrokts or Non-Gebrokts

When I made this for our Shabbat Havurah, it was such a hit that people were literally eating the crumbs off the serving plate with their fingers! If you are going to serve this the same day, start early as the cake must be thoroughly cooled before adding the luscious ganache topping, and then cooled in the fridge for 4 hours before serving. The recipe will be gebrokts or non-gebrokts depending on the macaroons you use. Carefully check the ingredients for matzo meal if that is a concern.

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 (10-ounce) can chocolate chip macaroons (about 28 small macaroons)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 (8-ounce) bars cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream, can use reduced fat but not fat-free
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, broken into small chunks
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray a 9-inch nonstick springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. Place the macaroons into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until it forms crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl. Mix in the melted butter. Press the crumbs into the prepared pan. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the sugar and eggs, beating until smooth. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla.
  5. Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter onto the prepared crust.
  6. Bake on the center rack, uncovered, for 1 hour. Turn oven off and leave the cake in the oven for an additional hour. Remove from oven and cool completely. It is okay if it has a crack in the center, it will be covered.
  7. Prepare the glaze: Place the chopped chocolate into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  8. Heat the cream in a small pot until simmering. Pour over the chocolate and stir to hasten the melting, until smooth. Using a small offset spatula, spread over the top of the cheesecake. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until ready to serve.
  9. Run a small knife or metal spatula around rim of cake to loosen it. Release the sides of the springform pan.

Previously on the Kosher Table

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