Growing up Jewish on the East Coast, Passover represented one of the most joyous times of the year. Members of the family gathered around the dining room table for the Seder, the service celebrating the journey to freedom of our people, and, of course, a suitably festive meal. Like the service, much is proscribed for the meal, but there is still room for individual additions and subtle changes. As part of the service, the following things are required to be served:
Matzoh- The traditional Jewish unleavened bread. They are placed within the folds of a napkin, a reminder of the haste with which the Jews fled Egypt, having no time for the bread to rise. Two pieces are consumed during the service, a third is hidden during the ceremony, to be found later by the children as a prize.
Maror- Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, symbolic of the bitterness of slavery.
Charoses- A mixture of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon, mixed together as a reminder of the mortar used in the construction of buildings during the time of slavery. (While the use of apple here is traditional, there is nothing to prevent the addition or substitution of other fruits.)
Beitzah- A roasted egg, symbolizing life and the perpetuation of existence.
Karpas- Greens such as parsley, representing hope, served with a bowl of salt water, representing the bitter tears shed during slavery.
Zeroah-A piece of roasted shankbone, symbolizing the Paschal offering.
Wine-Four glasses of wine are consumed during the service, representing the four-fold promise of redemption. A special glass is set aside for Elijah the prophet.
While childhood Passovers were spent mostly with family, as an adult, it became one of my great joys to involve non-Jewish friends in the ceremony, sharing history, companionship, and a good meal. To me, no cooking instrument is more inviting to sharing than a large grille with lots of open space surrounding it. In fact, grilling for Passover is a time-honored tradition for the Jewish populations of North Africa, because it is their belief that this is how the Jews must have cooked their meals during their exodus from Egypt. If you are fortunate enough to live in a location where the weather permits, you may wish to conduct the whole Seder ceremony outdoors. Below I have provided one possible variation of a grille-oriented Passover meal, with recipes for the more unique dishes provided, but please feel free to improvise. Have your foods prepared ahead of time so that you can fully enjoy the ceremony. (This has the added advantage of having the food prepared before you partake of those four glasses of wine.)
Grille-focused Passover menu
Marinated lamb and veggie kabobs with horseradish dipping sauce
Fruit salad “charoses” with orange-mint dressing
Garlic mashed potatoes
3 lbs. lamb, cut into 1” cubes (I like using leg of lamb for this)
3 lbs. combination of sweet onions, mushrooms, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes cut into chunks for skewering
juice of 2 lemons
5 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated fresh horseradish
3 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, olive oil garlic, pepper and tablespoon of oregano and marinate the meat and veggies cubes in the fridge for 2-4 hours. Prepare your grille for indirect grilling, making sure that the grate is sufficiently oiled to prevent the meat and veggies from sticking. Remove the meat and veggies from the marinade and place on skewers, alternating meat and veggies. Cook to desired doneness, turning after a few minutes. Be sure not to overcook the meat. Combine the horseradish, vinegar, basil and oregano and serve in cups as a dipping sauce.
Fruit Salad ”Charoses” with Orange-Mint Dressing
5 cups of fresh fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces. I like to use a combination of apples, bananas, papaya and mango, when available.
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped
Combine the fruit and nuts in a salad bowl. Puree the orange juice, olive oil and mint leaves in a blender or food processor until smooth. Toss the salad with the orange-mint dressing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Mezoff is a Louisville-based chef who owned the highly-regarded Tastes Restaurant, as well as Big Mama Mezoff’s Sauces. He is afflicted with “hickorophilia dementia,” an intense addiction to hickory smoke, a malady curable only by the consumption of healthy quantities of barbecued meat and veggies.