Last year, for the first time, I visited the home of a friend while her family was preparing for their Passover Seder. Periodic pop quizzes revealed that her then three-year-old daughter had studied well and knew the Four Questions (Mah Nishtanah) in Hebrew, as this would be her first time asking them. Though I was only there for a couple of hours, it was a very special moment for me to see grandparents, parents, and children working together, each on their own tasks, to get ready for their very important meal.
Passover this year begins on the evening of Monday, April 10, and ends on the evening of April 18. If you will be preparing the Seder, we have a few ideas for some of the classics by marketing professional and recipe developer, Dani Fisher. Dani has shared her recipes for a Californian Locavore Passover Seder which include Green Garlic and Parsley Matzo Balls with English Peas and Pea Tendrils, Schmaltz Roasted Asparagus with Gribenes and Gremolata, and Bitter Tears Sipping Shot. You will need to prepare the infusion for the shots the day before your Seder. Chag Sameach! —Kristina
About Dani’s California Locavore Passover Seder: The way-too-short story of Passover is that every spring, Jews gather to recall and retell the story of Exodus, when we escaped from slavery in Egypt. The centerpiece of the holiday ritual is the Seder meal, guided by the Haggadah — a text that calls for in equal measure: prayers, debate, singing, drinking, and eating. The Haggadah asks us to taste six symbolic foods to animate the Exodus story. Most signal the bitterness and pain of slavery, but there are always greens (often parsley) that remind us it is spring, the perennial time of rebirth, rejuvenation, and hope.
This year, I felt like we could use a bit more hope than a sprig of parsley on the Seder table, so here are some riffs on Passover classics that celebrate the spring bounty — and lend an extra dose of brightness and optimism to your Passover table. If that doesn’t suffice, there’s also a Passover cocktail.
Photography by Colin Price
Vegetable stock (for the matzo ball recipe below)
— 3 russet or similar potatoes (cut in half)
— 2 onions (peeled, cut in half)
— 4 celery hearts + two handfuls of celery leaves
— 4 carrots, cleaned
— 4 arugula leaves (optional)
— kosher salt to taste
In a large stock pot, place the ingredients and fill with water. Simmer ingredients for a couple hours until the veggies are very soft and all their flavors have seeped out. Use the strained stock for the matzo ball recipe below.
Schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) and Gribenes (chicken skin “cracklings”)
Batch make schmaltz for all your Passover recipes. Use any leftovers instead of butter on morning toast!
— 1 pound of chicken skin and fat, diced
— 1 onion, chopped
Heat a sauté pan over low heat. Add diced chicken fat and skin and slowly simmer until fat starts to render out. Add chopped onion and continue to cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, allowing all the fat to melt into liquid and the skin to shrivel into crackling. Strain fat into a jar with an air-tight lid. Store at room temperature if using today, keep any extra in the fridge for up to a couple months. Lay crackling (gribenes) on a paper towel to dry.
Green Garlic and Parsley Matzo Balls with English Peas and Pea Tendrils
Serves 6 in bowls or 10 in cups.
Growing up, Grandma Joan’s matzo ball soup was my favorite part of Seder. She made broth from scratch and stuffed her airy matzo balls with schmaltz and herbs. But, she always added carrots to the soup, and I always picked around them. They were not the diminutive sweet, springtime carrots; they were dull, tasteless big boys. I held onto her base recipe, but swapped the classic carrot for zingy green garlic and bright peak-season peas.
— 5 tablespoons Schmaltz
— 10 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced
— English peas, shelled
— 1 cup parsley, finely chopped + extra for garnish
— 6 tablespoons dill, plus extra for garnish
— 4 large eggs, beaten at room temperature
— 1 cup Matzo meal
— ¼ cup seltzer
— Salt, 6 large pinches
— Freshly ground black pepper
— Veggie broth (recipe above)
— Pea tendrils
In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon schmaltz. Add green garlic and sauté for 3 minutes until translucent. Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside. Add the shelled English peas to the pan and sauté in the remaining schmaltz until al dente. Set aside.
To make the balls: In a large bowl, place the sautéed green garlic, 4 tablespoons chopped parsley, 6 tablespoons of dill, the eggs, matzo meal, seltzer, remaining 4 tablespoons schmaltz, the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight.
To assemble the balls: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the matzo mixture from the fridge immediately prior to poaching. (The cold dough will make forming balls way easier, though it is always a bit messy!) Using wet hands, scoop out a small handful of the matzo mixture and gently roll into golfball-sized spheres. Lay the balls onto the lined baking sheet until you’re ready to poach them.
To poach the balls: In a stock pot, bring veggie stock to a boil. Wet your hands again and gently drop balls into stock. Reduce heat and simmer and poach balls for 30 – 45 minutes — until light and airy. Add sautéed peas and simmer another minute.
Ladle soup into bowls, adding to each a big pinch of chopped parsley, dill, pea tendrils, and lots of black pepper. Serve immediately.
Schmaltz Roasted Asparagus with Gribenes and Gremolata
At my family’s Seder, I am always asked to bring the veggie side. Maybe it’s because I work for a produce-centric market, or maybe it’s because the elders have called all the hero dishes: the matzo ball soup, the gefilte fish, the brisket. Either way, these schmaltz-roasted and gribenes-dusted asparagus are nobody’s sideshow.
— 1 bunch parsley
— 2 stalks green garlic
— 1 lemon, zested
— 2 pounds asparagus
— 3 tablespoons schmaltz
— 3 tablespoons gribenes
— salt, 3-finger pinch
— Black Pepper, to taste
To make the gremolata: On a large cutting board, finely chop the parsley and the green garlic. Place the chopped parsley and green garlic in a small bowl. Use a microplane to grate the zest of one lemon over the parsley and garlic. With a fork, mix the three ingredients together and set aside.
To prepare the asparagus: Turn oven broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil. Trim the asparagus and pile onto the lined baking sheet. Toss the asparagus with the schmaltz and salt and distribute them into one layer. Place the baking sheet in the oven and broil for 7 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Place the asparagus on a platter and serve at room temperature, topped with gremolata, gribenes and black pepper.
Bitter Tears Sipping Shot
Makes 6 shots
Part of the Seder ritual involves eating green herbs dipped into salt water. The herbs represent the hope of spring; the salt water represents the tears born of bitterness of slavery. The act then encourages us to hope, even in the most desperate circumstances. A few years ago, my husband and I turned this ritual into a cocktail and the tradition has stuck. You will need to begin preparing this this the day before.
— 1 1/4 cups Vodka (also great with gin or aquavit)
— 1 big fresh horseradish root
— Kosher salt, for the cocktail glass rims
— Parsley, leaves gently rolled in hands
In a pitcher or large measuring cup with a spout, pour the Vodka. Shave horseradish into the pitcher. Let the mixture infuse overnight at room temperature, or up to a week for stronger spice. Strain the horseradish from the vodka and discard. Chill the infusion for 4 hours before serving.
To make the cocktail: Fill a small plate with kosher salt. Wet the rim of a shot glass and dip into the salt. Pour 1.5 ounces of the infused vodka into the glass. Garnish with a few sprigs of parsley.
About Dani: Dani leads marketing for Good Eggs, the locavore Bay Area online grocer where she most recently helped develop recipes for their new seasonal dinner kits. In her pre-Good Eggs lives, Dani was a food and prop stylist, an editor at Food & Wine, and chef at Oasis Antichi Sapori — a family-run, 1-michelin star restaurant in Southern Italy. She lives in Oakland with her husband, Adam, where she tries to begin each weekend celebrating Shabbat with friends.