On her website The History Kitchen, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about the History Kitchen.
Passover is a celebration of freedom, and an opportunity for the Jewish people to connect to their shared spiritual history. The eight day long Passover holiday commemorates the Biblical story of Exodus, in which the Israelite Jewish slaves of Ancient Egypt are liberated from slavery. The holiday originated in the Torah, where the word pesach refers to the ancient Passover sacrifice (known as the Paschal Lamb); it is also said to refer to the idea that God “passed over” (pasach) the houses of the Jews during the 10th plague on the Egyptians, the slaying of the first born. In a ritual feast known as the Passover Seder, the story of Exodus is told. Prayers and blessings are recited, songs fill the air, and traditions are kept alive through ancient customs. For Jews, the ritual of a Passover Seder meal is filled with reverence. The same prayers and stories have been said over the Passover table for centuries. It’s a symbolic, meaningful holiday that never fails to fill me with joy. The celebration of Passover is one of the many reasons I connected to Judaism, and eventually converted.
Many Christians also celebrate Passover in connection with the Christian holiday of Easter. In recent years, it has become more common for churches and Christian groups to host their own short Passover Seders, often led by visiting Rabbis. This spirit of cultural sharing is a wonderful way for people of different faiths to find common ground and foster mutual understanding.
A Jewish Passover celebration comes with a list of dietary laws that must be adhered to in addition to the normal kosher laws. For the eight days of Passover, we do not eat chametz, or leavened bread products. When the Jews fled Egypt, they did not have time to let their bread rise. Instead, they brought unleavened bread with them into the desert, which was baked by the sun (which is, in essence, matzo). That’s why we use matzo and matzo meal products rather than leavened bread or grains during Passover.
While some folks dread the dietary restrictions of a kosher Jewish Passover, I welcome them as a unique culinary challenge. Over the years I’ve embraced the idea of cooking without chametz. It’s pushed me to think outside the box and get creative with my cooking. Passover is a springtime celebration, which inspires me to develop recipes with fresh, natural, seasonal ingredients. Here are some healthy, spring-inspired recipes to lighten up your Seder table.
This fresh spring salad gets its flavor from oven roasted asparagus, toasted pine nuts, ripe avocado and a slightly sweet citrus-basil dressing.
Our family charoset recipe is really unique. It is pureed with dates, Sephardic-style, but it also contains traditional Ashkenazi charoset ingredients like apples and walnuts. Because of the blending of two Jewish food traditions, I call this our Ashkephardic Charoset Recipe.
This simple yet elegant seared salmon is cooked to perfection with a crispy crust, then topped with fresh pesto made with basil, toasted almonds and sweet Meyer lemon juice.
This simple Yukon Gold mash is mildly scented with rosemary and garlic. Boiling the garlic cloves with the potatoes makes them soft and mellow, so they are easily mashed along with the cooked potatoes.
This light, refreshing dessert is made from a variety of orange slices – navel, moro, cara cara – chilled in rosemary-infused simple syrup and topped with pistachio crumbs and sliced dates.
With a healthy Seder menu like this, nobody will begrudge you these bite-size coconut indulgences.
Meet the Author
Tori Avey is a food writer, recipe developer, and the creator of two cooking websites: The History Kitchen and The Shiksa in the Kitchen. She explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the foods of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Tori’s food writing and photography have appeared on the websites of CNN, Bon Appetit, Zabar’s, Williams-Sonoma, Yahoo Shine, LA Weekly and The Huffington Post. Follow Tori on Facebook: The Shiksa or Twitter: @theshiksa.