Passover Prep, Unbound

Food plays an important role during Passover — from the six symbolic items on the seder plate to those foods avoided during the eight-day holiday, like chametz (leavened grains) and kitniyot (legumes). But the dinner that follows the seder on the first two nights, when family and friends gather to retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from slavery to freedom, can leave a host slaving away in the kitchen.

Instead, consider liberating yourself with a traditional Passover menu made in advance. Gefilte fish, chicken soup, matzah balls, roast turkey, all of the old-time favorites that my family enjoys, can be made in less time and still taste delicious.

Homemade gefilte fish has always been thought to be time consuming, but the technique is just like making hamburgers. My Gefilte Fish Terrine combines ground whitefish, eggs, matzah meal and water,  spooned into a baking dish and baked in a water bath (there is no need to make fish stock). Serve this with horseradish, a small green salad or julienne cucumbers and even people who don’t normally eat gefilte fish will love it. You can buy the fish already ground or grind it yourself.

Making chicken soup is no big deal, but using lots of chicken is important — the more chicken, the better the flavor. Place the chicken giblets in a cheesecloth bag, tie a whole chicken with string to keep it from falling apart, and then arrange both chicken and giblets in a large pot. Add water, diced onions, carrots, parsnips, celery and parsley, bring to a boil, and simmer for one or two hours. Remove the chicken from the soup and roast it in a tomato sauce, or use the leftover chicken to make a salad.

The secret to perfect, light matzah balls is to separate the eggs, fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk-matzah meal mixture, then poach in the chicken soup. They will be light and delicious.

Bake a separate vegetable stuffing in a casserole dish and serve with roast turkey breast. By using only turkey breast you eliminate some calories, and because the breast is much leaner, it takes less time to bake.

The Gefilte Fish Terrine, Chicken Soup and Vegetable Stuffing all can be made a day early.

Serve a Passover Fruit Cake, baked apples or pears poached in wine as a perfect addition to your menu. And for chocolate lovers, I have included an easy recipe for Chocolate Farfel Clusters.


1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 pounds whitefish
2 eggs
1/3 cup matzah meal
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

In a grinder or food processor, grind the onion, carrot, celery and fish. Transfer ground mixture to a large bowl and blend with eggs, matzah meal and water, mixing well to thoroughly combine ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Mixture should be soft and light to the touch.

Lightly oil a 2-quart glass baking dish and line it with plastic wrap. Oil the wrap.

Spoon the fish mixture into the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and a double layer of foil.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the terrine in a large baking pan and pour in hot water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack 10 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, invert the terrine on a platter, peel off the plastic wrap, and slice. Place on individual serving plates with horseradish.

Makes 8-10 servings.


This recipe yields a truly classic version of chicken soup. For an unusual variation, or for any leftover soup, try pureeing the broth with the vegetables for the second night.

1 (5-pound) whole chicken or 2 (2 1/2- pound) chickens
Giblets from the chicken (or purchase 1 pound of gibletsfrom the butcher)
3 medium onions, peeled and diced
3 to 4 quarts water
16 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 celery ribs with tops, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 parsley sprigs
Freshly ground black pepper

Truss or tie the chicken or chickens with string to keep them from falling apart in the soup. Place giblets in a cheesecloth bag, and tie to secure.

In a large, heavy Dutch oven or pot, place the chicken and giblets, onions and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and, using a large spoon, skim off the scum that rises to the top. Add the carrots, celery, parsnips and parsley. Cover, leaving the lid ajar, and simmer for 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Uncover and simmer 30 minutes more.

With a slotted spoon, remove the whole chicken and giblets from the soup. Let the soup cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Remove the fat that has hardened on the top. Bring to a boil, add matzah balls (recipe follows), cover and simmer. Ladle into heated soup bowls with matzah balls.

Makes 10-12 servings.


3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
2 quarts chicken soup

Put the egg yolks, water, salt and pepper in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. Gently fold the yolk mixture alternately with the matzah meal into the egg whites until well blended, using only enough meal to make a light, firm dough.

Drop a tablespoon of matzah ball mixture into rapidly boiling soup to form each ball. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Do not uncover during this cooking time.

Ladle into hot soup bowls.

Makes 12 matzah balls.


1/4 cup peanut oil
3 onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 bunch carrots, peeled and grated
1 parsnip, peeled and grated
2 large zucchini, unpeeled and grated
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup raisins, plumped and drained
2 tablespoons matzah meal
2 tablespoons matzah cake meal
2 tablespoons Passover potato starch
1/2 to 3/4 cup Passover dry red wine or apple juice
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil, and sauté onions and garlic until transparent. Add celery, carrots, parsnip and zucchini and toss. Sauté for 5 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Add parsley and raisins and mix thoroughly. Simmer for 5 minutes, mixing occasionally. Blend in matzah meal, matzah cake meal and potato starch. Add 1/2 cup wine and mix well. Add additional wine, a tablespoon at a time, until stuffing is moist. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in an oiled 8-by-10 inch casserole and bake at 350 F until heated through.

Makes 8-10 servings.


2 tablespoons melted unsalted nondairy margarine
2 cups pitted dates, thinly sliced
2 cups dried apricots, quartered
1 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups toasted whole almonds
1 1/2 cups toasted walnut pieces
3/4 cup matzah cake meal
1 tablespoon potato starch
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Brush a 5-by-9 inch loaf pan with melted nondairy margarine and line with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dates, apricots, raisins, almonds and walnuts. In a separate bowl, combine the matzah cake meal, potato starch and sugar and mix well. Add fruit mixture and mix evenly. Beat eggs and vanilla to blend. Stir into fruit mixture. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly, pressing into corners of pan.

Bake until golden brown, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan. Peel off paper and let cool on rack.

Wrap in plastic wrap and foil. Chill at least one day or up to two months. To serve, place cake on a wooden board and, using a sharp knife, cut in thin slices.

Makes 10-12 servings.


1 (1-pound) package semisweet chocolate
1 cup toasted matzah farfel
1 cup toasted chopped pecans

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water or in the microwave. Pour chocolate into large bowl. Add matzah farfel and pecans and mix thoroughly. Spoon chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper or into ruffled paper cups. Refrigerate until set.

Makes about 30 clusters.

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