At sundown April 8, Passover begins with the first Seder — the dinner feast ritual celebrated by Jewish families commemorating the freedom of Jews from slavery in Egypt.
The four questions asked by the youngest child who is able to recite at the Seder:
Why is this night different from all other nights:
— On all other nights we eat both leavened products and matzoh, and on this night we eat only matzoh?
— On all other nights we eat all vegetables, why on this night we must eat bitter herbs?
— On all other nights we do not dip even once, why on this night, do we dip twice?
— On all other nights we eat sitting upright or reclining, why on this night do we only recline?
This year we might ask a fifth question in these unprecedented times:
Why is this year’s Seder different from all other Seders?
In all other years, the Seder has brought many friends and relatives together for an extravagant feast, why this year will there be many empty seats around the table and dinner scaled down?
Perhaps though, this year because you have time, you can prepare the usual feast, albeit for fewer people. Others who depended upon communal participation where your guests brought a dish to your home might scale down the number of courses at their Seder. Small can be intimate and celebratory, and doesn’t have to lose the spirit of the holiday you are used to. Some will be using technology such as Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp and FaceTime to connect with friends and family who also are practicing social distancing. The songs can be still be sung bridging the separation of the Seders. Although you won’t be in the company of the majority your loved ones, let the spirit of Passover be present virtually.
There is no doubt that Passover and Easter will be different this year.
I interviewed Dori Gordon Walker, author of the recently self-published “Essential Passover From Scratch: Recipes and Stories from my Mother’s Kitchen” (available at https://amzn.to/3aoF4M7.) She said, “Like many Jews, the major cooking holiday for my family is Passover, where once-a-year delicacies are lovingly prepared from scratch, with matrilineal inheritance and collective memory — of techniques, ingredients, and notional quantities — serving as recipes.”
She has spent ten years quantifying and documenting her family’s Passover staples into easy-to-follow, gorgeously photographed recipes. Her book, contains all you need to create a beautiful seder meal—gefilte fish with freshly-made horseradish, charoset, chicken soup with fluffy matzo balls, a sublime brisket recipe, an impressive array of cookies for dessert.. And beyond the seder, it contains recipes for breakfast meals and family snacks—all kosher for Passover, but delicious year round. Every recipe is accompanied with a full-page color photo of the finished product.
I asked her how Passover will be different for her family this year. She said,
“Our family had our usual large Seder planned in Illinois, at my sister’s home (sis is a Rabbi in Woodstock, Ill. ). My husband, one of our sons, and I were going to drive there from Virginia. A brother was going to fly in from Denver. My other kids from Chicago, and my brother’s kids from Chicago were going to be there, plus assorted friends, and a cousin from Michigan. Now all is cancelled.” Does this sound familiar?
She said, “our new plan is to have a Zoom Seder, with each of us cooking whichever Seder components we are able. Yes, indeed, this Passover is much different. People now have a renewed interest — and benefit — in cooking from scratch. I can only hope that my book will help people with that.” Here are a few recipes from her book.
At the end of a Seder it is customary to say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Perhaps, we also should say, “next year let us celebrate with our loved ones again, in person, in good health, with the full feast we are accustomed to. And a couple of new Passover dishes from Dori’s book.”
Additionally, https://www.jewishnewhaven.org will have a link to the Town Hall Community Panel video featuring several rabbis who spoke about “How to Celebrate Passover in Time of Pandemic.”
Mix together the fruit and nuts. In a bowl, combine the honey and wine. Stir it all together. Adjust with more honey or wine to taste. Makes 4 cups.
Equipment needed: cheesecloth and a long, deep kettle with a lid.
For the Salmon
Place all ingredients except for the fish into the kettle, bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 15 minutes.
Wrap the fish in the cheesecloth, leaving enough length on each end so that you can twist the cloth and tie small knots — you’ll need these to act as handles. Lower the fish into the broth, and let simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Take the kettle to the sink, and carefully rinse the fish in cold water until it is cool enough to handle. Lift the fish out, let drain a bit, place onto a large platter and unwrap.
Carefully peel off and discard the skin from both sides. Use a paper towel to dab around the fish to dry the platter.
Spread on a layer of cucumber sauce, and garnish with thin slices of Persian cucumber and fresh dill.
For the cucumber sauce
Slice peeled cucumbers in half, the long way, and use a spoon to scrape out and discard the seeds. Grate the cucumber and use your hand to squeeze out the liquid. Discard the liquid. Mix together all the ingredients. Salt to taste.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs and orange rind. In another bowl, mix together the cake meal and potato starch and add to the wet ingredients. Stir in the nuts. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight. Hand roll into eight, 1-inch rolls, placed about 4 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets, then flatten using the palm of your hand. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until very slightly browned. Remove from oven and cut into 3/4-inch diagonal slices; turn each cookie 90 degrees onto a cut edge and return to oven to bake for another 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and flip each cookie over onto the other cut edge; return to oven for another 8-10 minutes. If you like, sprinkle the warm cookies with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Makes 5 dozen.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crumble up the matzo in a bowl , if using matzopieces. Run warm water over the matzo until wet, then drain.
Mix together all of the ingredients except the egg whites.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture.
Bake in a well-greased, 2-quart baking dish for one hour or until golden brown, and testwith a toothpick. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 6.