Monday, April 9, 2012

Passover recipes, holiday traditions

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Matzoh kugel with apple and cinnamon - one of my Passover traditions

I've collected a lot of Passover recipes over the years. In 2009, during my first year writing about food, I asked local chefs, caterers and home cooks in Los Angeles to share their favorite Passover recipes in my LA Cooking Examiner column. I got a dozen or so, each more interesting than the next. (Click here for the entire list - it's worth perusing, I promise.)

I love the diversity of southern California's Jewish cuisine. For a girl of Russian-Polish descent from Long Island, Los Angeles's Sephardic leanings feel very exotic. I wrote about Tunisian carrot salad, Persian "celebration rice," lamb tagine with artichokes. I read about haroset with avocados and bananas, which sounded a little weird. I planned imaginary seders in which matzoh balls were laced with ginger, nutmeg, foie gras.

And yet, when it comes right down to it, my own holiday table has remained fairly boring. I keep it simple and use Passover as an opportunity to celebrate spring. I add sliced snap peas and fresh dill to my matzoh ball soup at the last minute. I cook fat asparagus in the oven as a side dish. I roast my chicken with a sprinkle of garlic salt, crisping the skin under the broiler. Sometimes I put together a matzoh kugel, but other years I serve new potatoes cooked in salt water and call it a day. We always have a big salad, fruit for dessert. Other than the lack of bread, it could be any other dinner on any other night.

Next year, maybe, I'll try that haroset with avocados. Or maybe not. Because, strangely enough, I don't mind that my Passover food is less than memorable. When my kids think back on Passovers past, they'll remember the Seuss-inspired seder, the 10-minute haggadah, bumbling the words to "Dayenu," a gaggle of kids searching for the afikomen in the backyard after dark. And that's okay.

A happy Passover and Easter season to you all. May your holidays create many wonderful memories.

What are some of your Passover and Easter holiday traditions? Share your favorites in the comments below.


Lana said...

It interesting to hear that LA Jewish population is mostly Sephardic (in Yugoslavia, we had a big Jewish population that ran away from Spain and settled in Bosnia, even though we are geographically closer to Eastern Europe).
My friends in Michigan were Ashkenazi Jews and their cuisine sounded really familiar to what I used to rat growing up (minus some Balkan specialties brought over by the Ottoman Turks).
Food anthropology always fascinated me and I love learning about different customs.
Our Serbian Easter (next Sunday) is a very simple affair - all dishes celebrate the arrival of spring: roasted lamb, new potatoes, bibb lettuce with spring onions and radishes and if you want to splurge, a side dish of peas or spinach. I am sticking to simplicity, just like you:)

Sunchowder said...

Ah...great post Erika!~ I too have some lovely Passover memories :)

Erika Kerekes said...

@Lana - I don't think LA's Jews are mostly Sephardic - I think it's pretty evenly split. But until I moved here my experience with Sephardic Jews was limited to my brother's father-in-law, who grew up in Egypt and always had haroset with dates on Passover. It was all new to me. It's still pretty hard to find good Persian food in the U.S. outside of LA.

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