Through My Kitchen Window: Chag Pesach Sameach!

Matzo Ball Soup

Happy Passover! Passover 2014 began last evening. It runs from the 15-22 in the Hebrew month of Nissan, which corresponds with April 14-22 this year.

Every year, the Jewish people celebrate their liberation from slavery in Egypt around 1460 BC. They take a week to remember and celebrate with the first and last two days of the week being official (everyone off work) holidays.

Prior to leaving Egypt, the Lord gave the Israelites (the Jewish people) specific instructions to prepare them for the final plague he was going to bring upon the Egyptians and their concurring exodus from Egypt. For supper they were to kill a lamb or goat and eat it roasted along with a salad made from bitter greens and unleavened bread (bread without yeast). They were to brush the blood from the lamb on their door. That night, the angel of death went to every house in Egypt, and killed the eldest son in every house that wasnt marked with the lambs blood. Thousands of Egyptians died that night. Because of this, the Pharaoh (Egyptian King) gave the Israelites their freedom.

The Lord then told the Israelites: This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast.

On the first day of the festival and again on the seventh day, all the people must observe an official day for holy assembly. No work of any kind may be done on these days except in the preparation of food.

Celebrate this Festival of Unleavened Bread, for it will remind you that I brought your forces out of the land of Egypt on this very day. This festival will be a permanent law for you; celebrate this day from generation to generation.

When you enter the land the Lord has promised to give you, you will continue to observe this ceremony. Then your children will ask, What does this ceremony mean? And you will reply, It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt. And though he struck the Egyptians, he spared our families. (Excerpts from the Bible - the book of Exodus, chapter 12).

So, 3,474 years later the Jewish people still remember and celebrate their freedom from slavery in Egypt. Why dont you celebrate the Seder with them? The Seder is a special meal often eaten the second evening of the Passover celebration (tonight!).

In Hebrew, Seder means order. The Seder meal is eaten in a specific order interspersed with the telling of the Passover story, prayers, songs, and discussions. It is intended to be a relaxed time of teaching history and faith to children and worshiping the Lord for how He saved the Israelites from slavery. To find instructions on holding a Seder meal, search online for a Haggadah book.

Here are several recipes for foods traditionally included in the Seder meal. Some have symbolic meaning and some are simply tradition.

Matzah (Unleavened Bread)

Matzah is a flat bread made without yeast that is eaten symbolically through-out the Seder.

2 cups flour

2/3 cup cold water

1/3 cup oil

Pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 400.

Place the flour in a bowl and gradually add the water, oil,and salt until all is mixed well -- add more water or flour if needed.

Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky. Add more flour as needed.

Roll the dough out on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet until it is no more than a 1/4 inch thick. You can leave it in one big piece, or do smaller circles. A pizza stone also works well.

Use a fork to make rows of perforations across the full length of rolled-out dough. Then lightly stretch dough a bit closer to the edges of the pan to enlarge the perforations.

Bake the matzah for 15 - 20 minutes. They are finished when browned and crispy.

Charoset

Charoset is another symbolic part of the Seder, and is often eaten with the matzah bread.

3 sweet apples

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

1/2 cup sweet red wine or grape juice

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 Tb packed brown sugar (optional)

Peel, core, and dice the apples. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Taste, and add the brown sugar if needed.

Cover and store at room temperature until ready to serve.

Matzah Ball Soup

Matzah bread is ground to a breadcrumb consistency and used to make delicious dumplings in this soup that resembles chicken and dumplings. To make matzah meal, simply throw several pieces of matzah bread in the food processor and pulse until well ground.

3 large eggs

3 Tbs rendered chicken fat (schmaltz), or olive oil

1 1/2 tsps salt

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs matzah meal

10 cups chicken broth

3 medium carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

Fresh dill, for garnish

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and chicken fat. Whisk in 1/2 cup water and the salt. Mix in the matzo meal. Cover and refrigerate the batter until its firm, 2 to 4 hours.

Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large wide saucepan, and reduce the heat to a simmer.

With wet hands gently roll the matzah balls, using about 2 heaping tablespoons of batter per ball.

Slide the matzo balls into the simmering broth one at a time. Once all the balls have been added, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the veggies, cover, and continue cooking for 20 to 25 minutes until the veggies are tender and the matzo balls are cooked through. To test if the matzo balls are done, slice one in half. The color should be light throughout. If the center is darker, cook 5 to 10 minutes more. Serves 6.

Note: Cooked chicken is a common addition to this soup.

Davina Weinhold contributes Through My Kitchen Window weekly.