Next week, in observance of Passover, Jewish people around the world will take a whole week off from eating bread, cookies, pasta, and any other foods with “chometz,” which is any food made with fermented grains, including bread, cookies, pretzels, etc.
Lots of people, especially kids, find it challenging to change their diets this way for a whole week. When I was a kid, I thought the worst part of the holiday was taking unusual lunches to school because I couldn’t eat regular sandwiches. On the positive side, Passover is one of our favorite family gatherings and there are some delicious foods to enjoy while we set aside our usual favorites. Paying such careful attention to what passes our lips is also an excellent way to connect to thousands of years of Jewish history.
As told in Exodus, a cruel ruler in Egypt enslaved the Jewish people and made them build his cities. After God brought ten plagues upon them, Pharoah relented and agreed to let the Israelites go, but they had to flee quickly before he changed his mind. They were in such a hurry that they couldn’t let their bread rise overnight, so they had to eat unleavened bread on their journey. According to the Bible, they put their unleavened dough on their backs where it baked in the sun. Today, we call similar bread, which resembles a giant cracker, matzo, and it is one of the most common foods that Jewish people eat during Passover. My family especially likes it with butter and jelly at breakfast time.
On the first and second nights of Passover, families usually gather for a Seder, a ritual meal where we retell the story of Passover through stories, songs, and prayers. To start off the meal, many families enjoy matzo ball soup, which is traditionally a chicken and vegetable soup with dumplings made out of matzo meal (or ground matzo) (and which is usually the kids’ favorite part of the dinner).
When my family celebrates Passover, my mom asks each family member to take charge of one part of the meal. I usually get to make the matzo ball soup. Traditionally, matzo ball soup takes a couple of hours to cook, and involves many pots, strained herbs and vegetables, and too many steps for a busy weeknight, While I follow the traditional method on Passover, this easy version takes only about 20 minutes of actual work and is a great recipe for beginners or the time-crunched among us.. It can also work for vegetarians if you use vegetable broth rather than chicken broth.
At the Passover Seder, Jews also eat a sweet salad called Charoset, which represents the mortar between the bricks in the cities that the Jews had to build when they were slaves in Egypt. Here’s a modern recipe for Charoset from Pamela Reiss, author of the book Passover, A Kosher Collection.
Your kids can help the muppets of Sesame Street find the missing Matzo on It’s Passover, Grover!
What are some of your favorite holiday meals and recipes? Please share below.
Recipe: Quick Matzo Ball Soup
Enjoy this super simple matzo ball soup recipe for Passover.
- 1 pkg. (4.5 oz) matzo ball mix (sold in supermarkets with kosher foods)
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. salt
- 64 oz. reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 3 large carrots, sliced
- 3 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
- ¼ tsp. black pepper, or to taste
- Prepare the matzo ball mix according to the package directions. (For most packages, mix the matzo meal with 4 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup oil, stir and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Do not over-mix.)
- Set a large pot of water to boil. Once it boils, add the salt to the boiling water. Using wet hands, gently form the matzo ball mixture into 1-inch balls and carefully drop them into the water. Cover the pot and cook them for 30 minutes (reduce the heat, if necessary, to keep it at a low boil).
- After adding the matzo balls to the boiling water, bring the broth to a boil in a separate large pot. Add the carrots and celery and simmer them for 15 minutes. When the matzo balls are cooked, using a slotted spoon, carefully remove them from the salted water and add them to the pot with the vegetables. (At this point you can serve the soup immediately or refrigerate it for up to 3 days). Add the dill and black pepper and serve it hot, making sure to put a matzo ball and some vegetables into each bowl.