On Friday night, Jewish families around world will gather at their dining room tables. They'll recline with just a little more intent. Most will crack open their haggadahs. Hands will be washed and bitter herbs dunked; there will be many, many glasses of wine. Four questions will be asked and answered, the afikomen sought after and found. We'll sing dayenu for a while, and some of us will even sing it in tune (many of us won't). And then, history absorbed and tradition honored, there will be food. Glorious, glorious piles of delicious Jew food.
These are our favorite kosher-for-Passover seder dishes, with a few special twists thrown in along the way.
I won't turn down haroset of any nature—the classic Ashkenazi version of tart wine-soaked apples, crunchy walnuts, and cinnamon is sweet and nutty in all the right ways. But the Sephardic variety delivers a rich, chewy intensity, infused with the bold flavors of the Mediterranean rim. In place of apples, you'll find a mixture of raisins, dried dates, and dried apricots, soaked in warm wine and combined with crunchy almonds. Chopped in the food processor until it begins to form a paste, the sweet cinnamon- and clove-spiced haroset also resembles the mortar it's meant to represent far more closely than its slightly watery and loose Eastern European cousin. Oh, and it tastes great with some homemade horseradish. Once you give this guy a shot, you just may never go back.
Matzo Ball Soup
It's always puzzled me that Jews don't make matzo ball soup more often. It's just as flavorful and comforting as chicken noodle soup, only way more satisfying. Assuming, that is, that your matzo balls come out just the way you want them—there's nothing more disappointing than a hard, chewy sinker. I'm a light-and-fluffy girl, but even those who love a denser matzo ball will prevail with this choose-your-adventure recipe. We tested seltzer, egg whites, and baking powder, oil versus schmaltz, and every other recommendation your bubbe ever gave you. Our only rule? Simmer those matzo balls in a flavorful homemade stock! Aside from that, we've got foolproof tips to get whatever texture and flavor you desire.
Want to really step up your game? Try 'em deep-fried and meatball-stuffed. Seriously, do it. They're out. Of. Control.
Braised Brisket in Apricot and Cranberry Sauce
Whoever first realized that slow-cooking a tough old hunk of brisket would yield some of the most rich, savory, meltingly tender meat known to mankind deserves some serious beatification. You know, if Jews did that sorta thing. This rendition takes a page from Southern barbecue, using the more marbled (and thus ultimately more moist) point cut and slathering it in a flavorful rub of salt, pepper, brown sugar, garlic and onion powders, smoked and hot paprikas, and mustard powder. Then it's seared for a nice dark crust and braised in tomato-based sauce spiked with soy sauce, mustard, and Worcestershire, with brown sugar and molasses for sweetness. The clincher is the addition of dried fruit and preserves, for a little extra tang. After three hours in the oven, you're left with juuust sliceable meat that's sweet and sour like the classic, only...better. Yup, I said it and I'm not taking it back!
Roman-Jewish Fried Artichokes
Between heavy brisket and warming matzo ball soup, it can be easy to forget that Passover usually falls during spring. We'll be celebrating the season with crisp-on-the-outside, absurdly tender-on-the-inside artichokes, fried not once, but twice, in the Roman-Jewish tradition. Baby artichokes are easiest to use in this recipe, especially when cooking for a crowd, since you won't have to remove the hairy center choke. Either way, it's hard not to devour the delicate rosebud-shaped bites by hand...I'll leave it to you to decide what kind of etiquette your family demands.
What, no room for dessert? Tough luck, I'm gonna shower you in it anyway. There's lavender and Earl Grey-infused flourless chocolate cake to be had! And don't forget nutty and chewy double chocolate coconut macaroons. Of course, if you'd rather dig into something a bit lighter, you can always go with some toffee, chocolate, and almond-smothered matzo or mayhaps this flourless orange-saffron cake. Or take a page out of my book and make 'em all! You're a Jew, after all—there's never such thing as too much food.
We all know wine's a central element of the Passover seder. But if you're strictly looking for kosher-for-Passover bottles, there's a great wide world beyond Manischewitz. Everything you need to know about kosher wine, plus some of our favorite bottles for Passover, right this way!