When it comes to Passover, too many of us focus on the restrictions, what we can't eat, the ingredients we can't use, and all of the stress that comes along with it. Passover cooking does not need to translate to panic cooking!
Over the years, with lots of trial and error, I have finally mastered what it takes to put together the perfect Passover meal. Instead of spending time analyzing what ingredients I must stay away from, I spend my time thinking about the foods I really love and want to eat.
I try to approach Passover the same way I approach kosher cooking in general — it need not differ so drastically from regular, non-kosher cooking. (Kosher cooks can and should cook from regular cookbooks, not just kosher cookbooks.) When I was shooting my first cookbook, The Modern Menu, I had the privilege of working with the uber-talented and legendary food stylist, Victoria Granof. One day as she was styling a dish to be photographed, she said: "This isn't a kosher cookbook that happens to be great, this is a great cookbook that happen to be kosher!" In the same way, my Passover menu is made of flavorful, mouth-watering ingredients that just happen to be kosher for Passover.
My Modern Passover Menu is made up of fresh, seasonal ingredients to create beautiful and memorable dishes. My recipes are simple and straightforward — it's about bringing delicious flavors and bright colors to the table and serving your guests foods they’ll want to dig into.
I love taking traditional Passover dishes and modernizing them — like my slow-cooked butternut squash and sweet potatoes with caramelized onions and ginger. Instead of serving an ordinary green salad, I've decided to surprise my guests with a crispy slaw made from shredded kohlrabi and cabbage. But, the main attraction will no doubt be my famous lamb chops, which are encrusted with a crunchy pesto topping made from fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, and a touch of matzo meal.
When it comes to Passover desserts, I have a bit of an anger issue. I don't get why so many people try to make chocolate chip cookies or fancy cakes for Passover. It's not going to work. No flour + no baking powder = no good. That doesn't mean that all desserts are a no-go on Passover, but why try to imitate something that's never going to turn out as good as the original? I can't justify using imitations or substitutes to create something that simply can’t be done on Passover. Instead, I'll prepare a gorgeous cinnamon pavlova, top it with dollops of coconut cream, and sprinkle it with bright, fresh exotic fruits, such as pomegranates, kiwis, and mangoes. The result is breathtaking.
My latest obsession is actually a recipe that will appear in my upcoming book, The New Kosher: Simple Recipes to Savor & Share (Weldon Owen Publishing, August 2015), and it has become a major crowd-pleaser. I use under five ingredients to create homemade dark chocolate bark studded with crushed pistachios, chopped walnuts, and dried rose petals. I loves serving the bark as one large, unbroken piece directly on a wooden board, paired with a wooden mallet. All my guests have a blast using the mallet to break the bark into pieces and devour it.
The Modern Passover Menu
Main Course: Lamb Chops with Pesto Croute
Side Dish: Ginger, Butternut Squash & Sweet Potatoes
After-Dinner Nibble: Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios, Rose Petals & Walnuts
Your Cooking Timeline
What to Prep Ahead
- Make the dark chocolate bark: This bark can be made up to two weeks ahead. Keep it stored in an airtight container on the counter.
- Make the pavlova base: The base needs to cool overnight, so make it at least a day ahead of when you plan to serve it. Once cool, wrap it in plastic and store at room temperature for up to two days.
- Make the coconut cream: The cream can be made and refrigerated for up to two days. Whisk before assembling the pavlova.
- Make the pesto croute: The pesto for the lamb chops can be prepped the day ahead and kept refrigerated with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface so it doesn't brown.
3h:50 before sitting down to dinner
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Prep the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and ginger for the side dish.
- Begin roasting the side dish — roast for 40 minutes.
- If you haven't already done so, make the coconut cream and make the pesto croute.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and continue roasting the side dish for another 1 1/2 hours.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 200°F and continue roasting the side dish for another hour.
- Chop the fruit for the pavlova and store in the fridge. (Toss the fruit with a little lemon juice if you think your fruits will brown before dessert.)
- Make the kohlrabi salad, transfer to a serving bowl, and set aside until ready to serve.
- Transfer the sheet pan with the roasted vegetable side dish to a cooling rack and tent loosely with foil.
- Heat the oven to 400°F for the lamb.
- Sprinkle the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Sear both sides over high heat and transfer to a baking sheet.
- Top the lamb chops with pesto croute and roast for 10 minutes, or until the lamb chops are as done as you like them.
- Transfer the lamb chops to a serving tray.
- Turn off the oven. Uncover the sheet pan with the roasted vegetable side dish and place back in the warm oven to re-warm the vegetables.
- Transfer the warmed vegetable side dish to a serving dish.
- Take all dishes to the table and serve.
When ready to serve dessert, whisk the coconut cream to fluff it up and then dollop on top of the pavlova. Scatter the fruit over top and serve.
Set the chocolate bark out on small plates for guests to nibble.
Your Shopping List
To buy at the grocery store:
- Mixed fruit, like mangoes, raspberries, blackberries, pomegranate seeds, and kiwi (enough to make 2 cups cubed)
- Lemons (2)
- Kohlrabi (4 bulbs)
- Green cabbage (1 small head, enough to make 3 cups shredded)
- Butternut squash (1 large)
- Sweet potatoes (4 medium)
- Yellow onions (3 medium)
- Garlic cloves (4)
- Fresh ginger (4-inch piece)
- Fresh basil (1 handful)
- Fresh cilantro (1/2 handful)
- Fresh dill (1 small bunch)
- Large eggs (6)
- Lamb chops (12, frenched by the butcher)
- Good-quality dark chocolate (9 ounces)
- Dried cherries (1/4 cup)
- Shelled pistachios (1/2 cup)
- Pine nuts (1/2 cup)
- Walnuts (1/4 cup)
- Ground hazelnuts (4 tablespoons)
- Sunflower seeds (1/4 cup)
- Whole coconut milk (4 14-ounce cans)
- Matzo meal (2 tablespoons)
- Vanilla bean (1/2 bean)
- Dried rose petals (2 tablespoons)
In your pantry — check to make sure you have these things:
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar (1 tablespoon)
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Maple syrup (3 tablespoons)
- Sugar (2 cups)
- Ground cinnamon (1 tablespoon)