by Sybil PrattMarch, 1999
The pleasures of Passover
Pass the matzoh balls, chopped liver, and brisket--it's Passover! For Jews all over the world, Passover commemorates their Exodus from 200 years of enslavement in Egypt. The first Jewish holiday mentioned in the Bible, it has been observed for over 3,000 years and has become a time for families and friends to gather around the Seder table and tell children this amazing and exhilarating story of liberation. And, it is a time to eat. The wonderful, extensive meal that accompanies the reading of the Haggadah (the text that retells the Exodus story and explains how to conduct a Seder) is traditional, but traditions vary. Maybe now's the time to introduce a few new recipes that will become part of your own tradition. These three books can help.
Moses said Let my people go! Zell Schulman, on a much happier note, says Let my people eat! She's taken that excellent exhortation and turned it into a much-needed guide to the entire Passover process. Let My People Eat! Passover Seders Made Simple is ideal for first-time Seder givers and for those who want a deeper understanding of the rituals and traditions. Zell becomes your loving Jewish mother, taking you by the hand and guiding you through the preparation of the Seder feast from stocking your pantry for Passover and preparing the Seder table to cooking the meal itself. She provides shopping lists, preparation timetables, menus, a low-fat, low-cholesterol Seder, and even an all-vegetarian version. A whole section of additional Passover presentations lets you pick and choose and personalize, making it all the easier to Let my people eat!
Not just the newspaper of record, the New York Times is a treasure trove of recipes (at least on Wednesdays and Sundays) that are often geared to holidays, and Passover is no exception. The New York Times Passover Cookbook, edited by Linda Amster, with a foreword by Joan Nathan, is a Passover treasure trove itself, gathering over 175 recipes from top chefs and three short essays by renowned Times food writers, Ruth Reichl, Mimi Sheraton, and Molly O'Neill. Not that many years ago, the idea of putting on a Passover dinner with a bit of panache and a touch of pizzazz would have been unthinkable. But now, thanks to the kind of inclusive, gastronomically adventurous coverage provided by the Times, the Seder cuisines of the Mediterranean and the Middle East are here for your delectation. In addition, some of our celebrated chefs have created fresh, contemporary versions of traditional holiday fare. So, along with the classics, you'll find Barry Wine's matzoh meal crepes filled with light gefilte fish, spicy Artichokes Sephardic Style, and Maida Heatter's Chocolate Walnut Torte. Whether you stay with the tried-and-true or create something new, you'll find it all here.
Kosher cook extraordinaire, rabbi, historian, and author of The World of Jewish Cooking, Gil Marks is back with a culinary encore that again combines his deep appreciation of Jewish tradition and love of good food. The World of Jewish Entertaining focuses on the wonderful occasions that the Jewish year offers for entertaining, providing an extensive collection of contemporary and time-honored recipes for each holiday. The year begins with a traditional Rosh Hashanah dinner and goes on to a Hanukkah party, a Purim feast, international suggestions for a Sabbath meal, and enticing ideas for a host of family celebrations. Passover, definitely not passed over, is observed with two full menus, one Ashkenazic, one Sephardic, and an unusually inviting array of special desserts from Amaretti to wine-poached pears. To take the drudgery and anguish out of entertaining, Gil Marks provides A Guide for the Perplexed Host with well-thought-out planning strategies, advice on presentation, and the ever-crucial questions of how much to make and serve.
So, Next year in Jerusalem, but this year the Seder is at your house!
Sybil Pratt is an avid cook.