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Cook It Kosher

Preparing the Seder plate items can seem overwhelming, but it needn’t be.


Although there are six or seven different components, none of them are particularly complex. Here I’ll explain what each element represents, how it’s prepared and when it’s used. For more detailed information, check out the Seder preparation section on our Passover site.


Please note: Some of the items used may vary depending on your community and family. I am going according to the Chabad custom.

Zeroa: The Shank Bone

The shank bone represents the paschal sacrifice brought in Temple times. For this we use a chicken neck, roasted on the stovetop.

Hold the chicken neck over a burner with a pair of tongs, until blackened on both sides. Prepare one for each Seder plate. The shank bone is not eaten, and the same one can be used for both nights.

Beitza: The Egg

The hard-boiled egg represents the holiday offering brought in Temple times.


Prepare one egg per Seder plate. You may also wish to prepare one for anyone else at the table who is not using a Seder plate.

The egg is traditionally dipped in salt water and eaten at the beginning of the meal.

To prepare: Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. When the water reaches a rolling boil, turn the fire off and leave the eggs in the covered pot for about 12 minutes. For easier peeling, run the eggs under cold water.

Maror: The Bitter Herbs

The bitter herbs remind us of the bitter slavery and exile in Egypt.


We use freshly grated horseradish root wrapped in romaine lettuce.

To prepare the horseradish, peel and grate the horseradish root. You can use a hand grater or a food processor. Store in a glass jar for maximum freshness.

Chazeret: The Lettuce

The lettuce symbolizes the bitter enslavement of our fathers in Egypt. The leaves of romaine lettuce are not bitter, but the stem, when left to grow in the ground, turns hard and bitter.

Likewise, when we were enslaved in Egypt, at first the deceitful approach of Pharaoh was soft and sensible, and the work was done voluntarily and even for pay. Gradually, it evolved into forced and cruel labor.


To prepare the lettuce, wash it well and check for bugs. I find the easiest way is to cut off the stem and place the leaves in a big bowl of water. Remove and check each leaf, and pat dry with a paper towel.


The lettuce and bitter herbs are used twice. After we finish the maggid portion of the Seder, when we tell most of the story of the Exodus, we wash hands and eat the matzah. Then we eat the maror (the grated horseradish wrapped in a couple of lettuce leaves), and after that, we eat the sandwich (another dose of horseradish and romaine, this time sandwiched between matzah).

Charoset: The Paste

Charoset reminds us of the bricks and mortar the Jewish people were forced to make while enslaved in Egypt. We use it as a type of relish, into which the maror is dipped (and then shaken off).


For a basic charoset, mix together 1 finely diced apple, 1 finely diced pear, 1 cup ground walnuts and ½ cup red wine.

Check out more variations here.


Karpas: The Vegetable

The vegetable alludes to the backbreaking work the Jews did in Egypt. The letters of the Hebrew word karpas can be rearranged to spell perech samech. Perech means backbreaking labor, and samech numerically alludes to the number of Jews enslaved in Egypt.

The vegetable is dipped in salt water and eaten at the beginning of the Seder, after saying kiddush and washing hands. The Chabad custom is to use a piece of cooked potato or a piece of raw onion, but many others use parsley, radish or celery.


Peel and cut a potato and place in a small pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until the potato is fork tender. For the onion, just peel and cut into chunks. Prepare enough karpas for each person at the Seder.

The Salt Water

The salt water represents the bitter tears our ancestors shed while enslaved for so many years. It is placed in a small bowl next to the Seder plate, and both the karpas (vegetable) and the egg are dipped into it.


Make the salt water by mixing 1–2 tablespoons of salt into 2 cups water.

And that’s it . . . you’re done!


Here are some tips to help your Seder plate preparation go quickly and easily.

  • Make a list so you can cross off each item as it’s done.
  • If your kitchen is Passover-ready in advance, get a couple of items ready early. The shank bone can be frozen after it’s roasted, for example. And if you put the lettuce in a Ziploc bag with all of the air squeezed out, it stays fresh and crunchy for a good week. Eggs can be boiled 1–2 days before, and the salt water can be prepared at any time. It also literally takes about one minute.
  • Multitask. Keep in mind that the cooking of the eggs and potato is “passive time.” You can use this time to prepare other elements.
  • Grate the horseradish in a separate room, or even outside. When it is very fresh and potent, it can make everyone’s eyes sting, just like onions. When grated, that carries through the air and is particularly strong.
  • The most time-consuming task is probably the washing, checking and drying of the lettuce. If you have kids around, this is a good job for them.

The amount of time it takes will largely depend on how many people you are preparing for. If you have a big crowd, delegate! Ask people to chip in and hand out specific jobs.

Happy Passover!

This Passover dessert excites me! It is a far cry from your typical Passover dry sponge cakes and icy sorbets. The idea began percolating in my mind a couple of months ago, and after quite a bit of rethinking, testing, fixing, refining and retesting, I can confidently say it was well worth the effort.


Passover desserts have a bad reputation, but here’s an opportunity to change that. The mousse is non-dairy, and while everyone has their own Passover customs, I think this is doable for most.

There are a number of different elements here, but don’t let that overwhelm you. For one thing, each element uses only 2–3 ingredients. And for another, you can choose to leave out some parts.

I’ve done my best to walk you through the steps with notes about all the potential pressure points, and as always, feel free to leave your questions in the comments and I’ll help you out.

So, what is it exactly?


It’s a silky chocolate mousse, served with a chewy almond crumb, crispy meringues and fresh fruit. Oh, and it’s delicious!

The fresh fruit is just that—plain fruit. And the mint leaf garnish is optional. Which leaves you with three things to focus on: the crumb, the mousse and the meringue.

The crumb is the easiest of the three. You’re basically just mixing the ingredients like a cookie dough, but you’re looking for a slightly more crumbly texture.


Pour that out onto a baking sheet, bake for 10–12 minutes, and after it cools, crumble it gently with your hands and you’re done.


(Note: Both these pictures are of the crumb raw. It will spread and look more cookie-like after it’s baked.)

The meringue is not difficult or time-consuming, if you have mixer. A stand mixer is best, but a hand mixer will also work. You can whisk it by hand, but it will take significantly longer and a lot of elbow grease. I also have a shortcut for you with this. Instead of piping out individual mini-meringues, you can spread the mixture out and bake it as a flat sheet. Then break it into shards to use on the plate. It will taste the same and still be visually appealing.


The mousse is the most interesting element, and the hero of the dish. You probably know that water is generally chocolate’s nemesis. Get even a tiny droplet of water into your melted chocolate and it will instantly seize, becoming grainy and unsalvageable, which is what makes this recipe so surprising.

Created by Hervé This, a French chemist, the vigorous whisking in this recipe counteracts that, and you get a beautiful, creamy mousse, with pure chocolate flavor. If you’re having trouble understanding this part of the recipe, Google “Herve This chocolate mousse.” There are several videos online of people making it, and you can see how simple it actually is.

Keep in mind, the mousse is very rich, so a little goes a long way.

Last week I made this dessert for 60 people at a pre-Passover event, and it was a huge success. I hope you’ll give it a try too!


You will need:

  • 4 oranges, segmented
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded
  • Almond crumb (recipe below)
  • Mini Swiss meringues (recipe below)
  • Chocolate mousse (recipe below)
  • Mint leaves for garnish (optional)
  • Flaked sea salt (optional)

Note: You can prepare all the elements in advance. Just keep each part separate until serving.

Chewy Almond Crumb:

  • 1 cup natural almond butter, or 2 cups raw almonds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Use 1 cup bought almond butter, or make your own. To make 1 cup of almond butter, spread 2 cups raw almonds on a baking sheet, and bake at 350° F (180° C) for 10–15 minutes. Pour the almonds into the bowl of a food processor and run for 5–10 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides every few minutes. (Amount of time will vary, depending on the strength of your food processor.) When the almonds have formed a smooth paste, it is ready, and you can continue with the rest of the recipe.
  2. Pour the almond butter and sugar into a bowl and mix. Add the egg and the salt, and mix until the dough resembles soft crumbs. Spread the crumbs out over a cookie sheet and bake at 350° F (180° C) for 12 minutes.

    NOTE: If you end up with a ball of smooth dough, that’s okay too. Press chunks of dough down onto the pan and bake for 12–15 minutes.
  3. Mixture will spread while baking. Remove from oven and let fully cool. Then crumble and store in an airtight container until ready to use. If you want to make it more than a day or two in advance, store in an airtight container in the freezer.

Mini Swiss Meringues:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 10 tablespoons (112 grams) sugar

Directions:

Your best bet for this is to use a stand mixer. You can use a hand mixer, which will take a bit longer. You could even whip by hand with a whisk, but that will take much, much longer.

  1. Place the egg whites and sugar in the mixer bowl.
  2. Fill a small pot with about an inch of water. Bring the water to a simmer, then place the mixer bowl over the pot (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Gently whisk the egg whites and sugar for about 10 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. (To check if it’s ready, rub a bit of the egg white between your fingers. If the sugar hasn’t fully dissolved, it will feel grainy.)
  3. As soon as it’s ready, take the bowl off the pot and transfer to your mixer. Beat, using the whisk attachment, until the mixture has cooled and forms stiff peaks.
  4. I piped individual mini-meringues using a piping bag and a star tip, but I have two alternatives for you, if you don’t have the equipment or aren’t comfortable with piping. A) You can spoon the mixture into a zip-top bag, seal, cut one corner off, and pipe them like that. B) You can bake the meringue as a thin sheet, then break it into rough pieces, different shapes, like shards.
  5. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Either pipe the meringues on, or spread the mixture across thinly, using a spatula.
  6. Place the baking sheet into an oven and bake at 200° F (100° C) for 90 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven for another hour or so, to finish drying out. When the meringues feel hard and dry, they are ready. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Chocolate Mousse:

  • 20 oz. (570 grams) good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Fill a large bowl about a third of the way with ice and a small amount of water. Set a second, smaller bowl aside. This bowl should fit comfortably in the larger bowl.
  2. Place the chocolate and the water in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, whisking occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until chocolate is fully melted and mixture is smooth.
  3. Take the pot off the stove and pour the chocolate mixture into the small bowl. Place the small bowl in the ice bath and immediately begin to whisk vigorously. Whisk for approximately 10–15 minutes, until chocolate thickens to mousse consistency. Refrigerate until serving.

Note 1: When you feel the mixture start to thicken, be careful. If you over-beat it, it will turn grainy. If that happens, don’t panic. You don’t have to throw it out, but you do have to start again. Melt the mixture back down to a liquid and go through the steps again.

Note 2: It’s a lot of whisking, and your arm might well get tired. You can share the job around the kitchen with whoever else is around. If they want mousse, they gotta work for it! If you can’t manage to get it to the right consistency, you can still use it. Refrigerate, and it will thicken in the fridge. It will just be more of a ganache than a mousse. You can also try using a hand mixer for the first few minutes, and then switch to the whisk when it starts to thicken.

Note 3: Use good quality chocolate or chocolate chips for this recipe, since it is the primary flavor. You don’t want to use baking chocolate, but the kind of chocolate you would eat. I’ve done it with 72%, 55% and 45% chocolate. The 72% is probably too bittersweet for most people’s tastes, so I suggest going with a slightly lower option. I recently made this for an event and I used the 45%, which went over very well.

Note 4: You can halve this recipe, but do not go less than that.

To assemble:

  1. Place about 2–3 tbsp. almond crumb on each plate.
  2. Use an ice cream scoop to shape the mousse. Dip the scoop into warm water between each scoop.
  3. Place the mousse on top of the almond crumb, and now add the fresh fruit, meringues and mint leaf garnish. Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt over the mousse, and enjoy!

Note: You could also serve this in a cup. Crumb on the bottom, then mousse, then fresh fruit and meringue.

Yields: Approximately 20 servings.


Kosher for Passover

Fine, I’ll say it . . . Passover begins in less than three weeks!

Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about this kosher for Passover lemon chicken. I’ve poured the lemon sauce over juicy chunks of fried chicken mixed with very lightly sautéed vegetables, but you can also just make the sauce and serve it as a dipping sauce for chicken strips.


There are so many different community and family Passover customs that it’s almost impossible to create a recipe that works for everyone, but feel free to adjust this recipe to fit with your customs. For example, if I were to make this on Passover I would peel the vegetables, because the Chabad custom is to use only peeled vegetables.


I was also limited with ingredients for the sauce, since we use minimal processed products. But I found adding the grated horseradish was a great way to give the sauce some depth. It’s also a great way to use up leftover horseradish from the Seder plate.


I mixed my chicken with different types of peppers, but you could play around with different combinations. For example, zucchini and carrot would probably also be delicious! Likewise, you could use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of white meat. It’s up to you. There’s lots of room to play around and experiment with this recipe.


Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup potato starch
  • Oil for frying
  • Optional: 1 purple onion, 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 1 yellow pepper, 1 orange pepper, 1 cup pineapple pieces

Sauce Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup grated horseradish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of black pepper (optional)
  • 2 tsp. potato starch, mixed with 2 tsp. of water

Directions:

  1. Cut the chicken into chunks or strips.
  2. Dip each piece into egg, and then into the potato starch.
  3. Heat oil in a deep frying pan or pot, and fry chicken until golden brown on the outside and fully cooked inside. Set aside.
  4. Simmer all sauce ingredients except the potato starch in a small saucepan for 15–20 minutes. Strain the sauce to remove the horseradish pieces. Return it to the fire and mix in the potato starch and water mixture. Stir continuously for a few minutes while the sauce thickens. Pour sauce over the chicken, or serve it on the side as a dipping sauce.
  5. If you want to serve this with the vegetables, dice and sauté them over a low flame, until just cooked through. Mix with the chicken and then pour the sauce over.
  6. Serve with mashed potato, or zucchini noodles.

Have you started thinking about Passover cooking yet? What’s on your menu?

I was so pleased with how my savory dairy hamantaschen came out, I decided to have a go at these meat ones. I used the same pulled beef recipe that I used for the sandwiches and tacos a few weeks ago, so if you have leftover meat filling, you can try one of those.


I served the hamantaschen with a sweet, creamy coleslaw and a slice of pickle on top, but you can tailor them to your taste. A slice of tomato and some shredded lettuce would also taste good and be aesthetically pleasing, for example.

Once you’ve prepared the meat mixture, here’s how to assemble and bake the hamantaschen:




If you’re making these ahead of time, the best way to reheat them is in the oven, uncovered, on a baking sheet. That way, the pastry will flake up again, instead of becoming soggy.

Ingredients:

  • 20 (non-dairy) puff pastry squares (4 × 4 inches each)
  • 1 egg
  • 5 pickles
  • Coleslaw (recipe below)
  • Pulled beef (recipe below)

Pulled Beef Ingredients:

  • 2 onions, sliced in half rounds
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2.5 lb. short ribs (bone in)
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • 1½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1½ tsp. ginger powder

Directions:

  1. In medium-sized pot, fry the onions with the oil and salt until golden. Remove the onions and set aside. Return pot to the heat.
  2. Cut the ribs between the bones (but do not remove the bones) and brown on each side, in the same pot. Brown the meat in small batches. If the pot is overcrowded, the meat will steam instead of browning.
  3. When all the meat has browned, add the onions back into the pot.
  4. Pour in all the sauce ingredients over the meat and mix to combine. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook over a very low flame for 3 hours.
  5. Remove the meat from the sauce and shred. (If the meat does not fall apart easily, you need to cook it for longer.) Discard the bones and any lumps of fat.
  6. Return the meat to the sauce and refrigerate until ready to assemble the hamantaschen. Meat keeps well in the freezer, too, if you want to prepare it in advance.

Coleslaw Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrot
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • Sprinkle of garlic powder
  • Sprinkle of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Mix the mayonnaise, sugar, salt and garlic powder together. Add the lemon juice and mix in one direction until incorporated. (Mixing in one direction helps prevent lumps from forming.)
  2. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and mix. Let the coleslaw marinate for 30 minutes or so before serving.

To Assemble:

  1. Cut each puff pastry square in half diagonally.
  2. Cut a triangular smaller triangular hole in half of the pieces.
  3. Place a couple of tablespoons of the filling on the base triangle and cover with the “window” triangle.
  4. Use a fork to press down the edges, making sure they are sealed well.
  5. Beat the egg and brush over the top of the puff pastry. Place the triangles on a baking sheet lined with the parchment paper.
  6. Bake at 400° F for 25–30 minutes.
  7. Serve warm, and top each hamantasch with a heaping tablespoon of coleslaw and a slice of pickle.

Yields: 20 hamantaschen


Will you be getting creative with hamantaschen this year? Let us know what you’ll be making.

I have no idea when “funfetti” became a flavor, but apparently at some point it did. And despite my cynicism at the legitimacy of sprinkles as a flavor, I’ve decided to give it a shot and make these cheerful, festive hamantaschen for Purim.


I’ve filled them with dark chocolate, but you can use white chocolate, or any of the more traditional fillings (jam, poppyseed, etc.)





Not sure how to do the actual folding? Check it out here.



Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ⅓ cup sprinkles
  • 1 bar of chocolate (or 1 cup chocolate chips)

Directions

  1. Mix the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla.
  2. Add 1 cup of flour and the baking powder. Mix.
  3. Add the second cup of flour until the dough forms a soft but not sticky ball. You may need 2–3 more tablespoons of flour if your dough is sticky.
  4. Gently knead in the sprinkles.
  5. Roll out the dough and cut our circles.
  6. Put a piece of chocolate, or 3–4 chocolate chips, in the center of each circle.
  7. Gently fold the sides and pinch shut tightly.
  8. Bake for 10–12 minutes at 350° F.

Yields: Approximately 20 hamantaschen


Cook It Kosher features recipes from Chabad.org food blogger Miriam Szokovski, as well as guest bloggers and cookbook authors. Let us know if you’d like to contribute!
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