Tel Aviv Table Does Passover

Passover is the biggest culinary festival in Israel - despite the fact that it revolves around cutting out bread and most grains.

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Matza.Credit: Dreamstime

Passover is the biggest culinary festival in Israel - which might be surprising since it revolves around taking bread and most grains off the menu. But Passover is also the holiday that almost every Israeli marks by attending a festive Seder dinner. So the Seder becomes an opportunity to dust off family recipes, try some new takes on old favorites, and aspire to new heights in the kitchen to impress a big dinner table.

The Seder Plate

The Passover holiday kicks off with one festive dinner: the seder. The word means order in Hebrew and it’s a meal that comes with a manual for eating it. The whole seder centers on the Seder plate. Elliot Glassenberg, a teacher at the Bina secular Yeshiva, answers our questions about the history and evolution of the Seder plate, and about 50 shades of bitter herbs.

- Song: Pete Seeger - Dayenu

A very Ashkenazi Passover

Chef Shmil Holland is not only an expert in Ashkenazi cuisine, he also lives it. His Schmaltz Cookbook was the basis for a musical called “the Kishke Monologues” put up late last year by the Tel Aviv Yiddishpiel theater. He gives his ideas for Ashkenazi Passover classics, like gefilte fish and fried potato knish.

- Song: Johnny Cash: The Ten Commandments

The legume litany in Jewish history

Food historian and James Beard award winner Gil Marks talks about the rift in the Jewish world over legumes on Passover, and the evolution of matza. Marks is founding editor of Kosher Gourmet magazine and author of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.

- Song: The Bangles - Walk Like an Egyptian

Passover-friendly baking

Tel Aviv is a secular city, but Passover is a major holiday that brings almost every Israeli to a seder. That means that even bakeries that are not kosher devote a significant amount of time to creating desserts that would be welcome at a Passover dinner – no hametz, but plenty of style. At Dallal bakery, head pastry chef Aner Zalel oversees a small army of ten pastry chefs who are busy the week before the holiday turning out flourless cakes and French macarons. He showed me around his kitchen last week just before Passover.

- Song: Chris Cornell - Misery Chain

Wine: Making each of four glasses count

When you sit down to a Seder meal, you know you’re in for four glasses of wine. But what kind of wine will you be drinking? Our frequent wine advisor Tal Gal Cohen, founder of the portal, has some ideas for making the most of Passover table drinking - including progressing from white wine to rose, to full-bodied reds, and finally, dessert wines.

- Song: Chava Alberstein - Chad Gadia

Inside Mimouna, the Moroccan post-Passover party

Moroccan Jews ring in the end of Passover with a big party known as Mimouna. Picture loads of candies and sweet pancakes. Ilan Siboni of Jerusalem’s Moroccan Darna restaurant explains how it works.

- Song: George Michael - Freedom

Food news

Passover is a major peak in cookbook printing here in Israel, and one of the most talked-about books is Shai-Lee Lippa’s anthology of Balkan food. Shai-Lee was raised by a Turkish mother and a Greek father, and she grew up speaking Ladino at home. She gives a sneak preview into some recipes in the book.

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