No doubt this year’s Passover seder will be different, but that does not mean it cannot be special and meaningful. Rachel Ruth, the JCC’s director of senior services and basic go-to person for all things food-related, shares her thoughts on next week’s Passover celebration and ideas for new recipes to try as we reframe our vision of seder during these extraordinary times.
Strange times call for strange measures, and these are certainly strange times! As if it’s not crazy enough that the world is shut down, we are forced to self-quarantine in our homes, isolating us from our family and friends. When this was first announced my immediate reaction was “What about Passover?!” Probably not most people’s immediate reaction, but Passover is one of my favorite holidays and it takes a lot of planning to pull it off. I usually start cooking a month out, filling the freezer, to make sure I get it all done. At the beginning, I didn’t know how long the quarantine would last so I didn’t know if Passover would happen or not. That was the worst part. Do I still cook for twenty like it’s going to happen, or assume it won’t and just cook for four? I decided to wait. It’s a good thing I waited because I have a relatively small freezer and I don’t know where I would have stored matzo ball soup for twenty.
My newest dilemma is how to make a Passover seder for only four people. Is it even possible to cook holiday food for so few? I decided this is the year to try out new recipes. Of course, we’ll still have matzo ball soup and my son made me promise that I would still make the same amount of brisket so he could gorge himself over the course of the week, but I can’t face the big, heavy sides like tzimmis that I traditionally make. This year I think I may try Whipped Sweet Potatoes With Honey and Orange or Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots. I also like the sound of Roasted Carrots and Parsnip With Thyme by Danny Boome.
We usually make two to three different types of charoset, a traditional Ashkenazi one with apples and walnuts and one or two Sephardic recipes. This year, however, I think we will have to choose unless we want to fill the refrigerator with just charoset. Beware, these recipes are huge. If you’re only having two to four people at your seder this year, you may want to adjust the quantities.
Since the first seder falls on my birthday, dessert is a very important choice. Again, it’s hard to justify multiple desserts this year, so I think I’m deciding between Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake and her Clementine Cake. Of course, I think my children will insist that we make chocolate matzo crack as well. It’s a good thing I’m still exercising every day!
Just remember: quarantine isn’t a race, it’s a marathon, just like Passover. You have to pace yourself, be prepared and stay organized. Despite the situation, I hope you all enjoy the holiday. You can always set up a Zoom meeting with your family or turn on FaceTime for the seder. Let’s all be creative and take this opportunity to do things out-of-the-box this Passover.