Another trip around the sun during Covid means another year of Zoom Seders. Whether virtual or in-person, a good Seder service can take a few hours with only ceremonial nibbles like matzo, haroseth, parsley and — get excited — a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water. Hunger builds, but at least there’s wine.
The Seder meal that follows is culinarily a bit like Thanksgiving in that there are certain dishes, like matzo ball soup and gefilte fish, that are nonnegotiable. But there are other parts of the menu that can be tweaked, and what a good year to try something new and perhaps a bit more exciting than the usual.
Ground sumac, which is more widely available than ever, lends its pinkish tone and lemony tang to this roasted chicken. Citrus juices amplify the acidity in the assertive marinade, with dried apricots and green olives contributing their sweet and sour notes to a dish with real verve.
A whole roasted cauliflower is incredibly easy and delightfully showstopping. Here, the crucifer is cooked from start to finish in one pan: It’s first softened by oven-steaming, then roasted until browned on the outside. This is one of those vegetable dishes that easily serves as a main course for vegetarians or vegans. Go for a bright orange cauliflower if you can find one for a more vibrant effect. A bright, punchy cilantro and pistachio pesto slathered on top brings freshness and even more color.
If you are a savory matzo brei person, you will adore this matzo frittata. And if you’re not familiar with matzo brei, consider this an introduction to the genre. In this recipe, a blend of eggs and matzo is packed with jammy caramelized onions and mushrooms, then crisped in a pan and cut into wedges. It reports for duty as a side dish, but provides plenty of leftovers that keep well for breakfasts and lunches.
Making tsimmes needn’t be a big fuss: This version evokes the spirit of the traditional fruit and vegetable casserole in a modern way requiring almost no prep work and very little time. Pop some halved sweet potatoes in the oven to roast and stir up a simple but lip-smacking glaze full of citrus, ginger, honey and prunes to pour over before serving.
After a big meal and when there are still rituals to perform, there isn’t much room, or even time, for dessert. It’s late — who wants to wash even more plates and forks? These perfect coconut macaroons, along with some strawberries and perhaps some Medjool dates, are dessert enough. They’re the ideal finger foods to eat while reclining with those you love.
And to Drink …
If this were an ordinary Passover meal, with a large group, I would suggest a bottle of both white and red, because this meal will go with both. You might still want to do that, or pick one or the other, depending on which of these dishes you prepare. The cupboard of kosher wine options has expanded, but it still won’t contain obscurities, so these choices are mainstream. A white is best with the cauliflower dish, like a Mâconnais or unoaked chardonnay, or perhaps a Sancerre or restrained sauvignon blanc. The chicken would be great with either of these whites. You could also try a Beaujolais, a Loire cabernet franc or Bordeaux or a Crozes-Hermitage or St.-Joseph. I’d stick with the Sancerre for the matzo frittata. Manischewitz with dessert, for old times’ sake. ERIC ASIMOV