PASSOVER FEATURE Adding elegance to seder meals — and it’s easy

A chocolate raspberry torte with pecan provides a sweet finish to the seder. (Shannon Sarna)

NEW YORK (JTA) — I am not one of those people who looks forward to Passover each year. I dread it. I love my carbs and I absolutely loathe the constant cooking and dishwashing that somehow always accompanies the holiday.

Since my husband and I started hosting our own seder each year for my family and our close friends, we have worked on an array of Passover-friendly dishes that are so good, we eat them all year. This has greatly improved the quality of our holiday. Now if only I could find someone to wash my dishes all week.

These recipes are easy, elegant and a little different from the delicious but humdrum chicken soup, brisket and kugel. And with two nights of seders, sometimes you need something a little different to keep the seder menu interesting.


Gefilte fish is one of those dishes that is truly an acquired taste. For some people, the taste is simply never acquired. It’s hard to change traditions, but try switching out gefilte fish for bite-sized croquettes topped with salmon roe. Not a fan of caviar? Use smoked salmon instead. You can make these during the year and substitute panko bread crumbs for the matzah meal. You can also serve these for a dairy meal and add some sour cream, Greek yogurt or creme fraiche on the side.

Makes 2 dozen

4 large Yukon gold potatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 to 2 teaspoons dried dill
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
Matzah meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Peel potatoes and place in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, approximately 15 minutes.

Drain water and immediately place potatoes into a ricer or food mill. Add oil, vegetable broth, dried dill, horseradish, salt and pepper to potatoes and mix until smooth and seasoning is even throughout.

Add 1 egg and mix again. Begin forming patties by packing potatoes lightly into balls and then flattening them with palms of hand. Place on a platter and put in the refrigerator for a few hours or up to 24 hours.

After patties have finished chilling, beat the other egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Place matzah meal in another bowl and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix.

Dip each potato patty into egg, then matzah meal.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry croquette 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Allow the croquettes to cool slightly before topping with salmon roe and fresh dill if desired.

Serves 4-6

4 lamb shanks
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 heaping teaspoon sumac
1 heaping teaspoon cumin
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
Olive oil
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 1/2 cups red wine
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water 30 minutes
1/2 cup dates
Fresh parsley and cilantro (optional)

Combine the salt, pepper, sumac, cumin and paprika in a small bowl. Cover lamb shanks in dry spice rub and place on a platter covered in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour or up to 4 hours.

Place raisins in a bowl of warm water.

Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear shanks on all sides until brown. Remove from pan.

Add onion and garlic and saute, scraping the “good bits” from the bottom of the pan. You can deglaze with a little bit of the broth. Cook for 7-8 minutes, until onion is translucent.

Add tomato paste, clove, fennel seed and cinnamon; continue cooking for another few minutes. Add stock, wine, dates and drained raisins (discard water) and bring to a boil.

Put the lamb shanks back in the pot and reduce heat to low, or place into a 275-degree oven. Braise for 2 1/2 hours.

Serve with fresh cilantro and parsley, if desired.

Serves 4-6

3 cups chopped fresh kale, stems removed
2 medium beets
1/2 apple, diced
1/4 cup chopped candied walnuts
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the beets. Place in tin foil and roast in oven for 45-60 minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool. Remove the outer peel of beets using hands or a vegetable peeler.

Cut beets into bite-sized pieces.

Place chopped kale in a large salad bowl. Add beets, apple, candied walnuts and dried cherries or cranberries. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or salad dressing of your choosing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

For the crust
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling
8 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon instant espresso
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the crust: Melt the 1/4 cup margarine or butter in the microwave at 20 second intervals.

Place the pecans, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with blade attachment and pulse until you have course looking crumbs. Add melted margarine/butter and pulse 1-2 more times.

Press mixture into an 8- or 9-inch springform pan. Bake 7-8 minutes. The crust may look a little funny, bubbly or like it is ruined. But this is totally fine. Set aside.

To make the filling: Place the chocolate chips and margarine in medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Whisk in cocoa and espresso. Cool 10 minutes.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in large bowl on high speed until thick, about 6 minutes. Fold in chocolate mixture slowly. Then fold in raspberry jam, but don’t mix too much. Pour batter into prepared crust.

Bake torte until dry and cracked on top and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter attached, about 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 1 hour (center will fall).

Using an offset spatula or butter knife, carefully separate torte from sides of pan. Remove outer ring of springform pan. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

(Shannon Sarna is editor of The Nosher blog on