Mediterranean foods for Sephardic Seder

April 02, 1995|By Kyra Effren | Kyra Effren,Universal Press Syndicate

When Jews sit down to the Passover Seder, matzo will be on every table.

This unleavened bread reminds modern Jews of the Israelites' hurried departure from Egypt, when there was no time to let bread rise. During the eight days of the holiday, Jews will eat nothing that is leavened.

Other foods eaten during the Seder ceremony include Charoset, a blend of fruits and nuts that represents the mortar used by the Israelites to build for Pharaoh while in slavery. Bitter herbs, or horseradish, are a reminder of the bitterness of slavery, and greens dipped in salt water recall the tears of slaves. A roasted lamb shank and a roasted egg represent sacrifice and spring, with its new life.

Over the centuries, as Jews scattered through the Old World, menus for the Seder meal began to reflect the different regions and cultures. Those settling in Eastern and Central Europe, known as Ashkenazim, use the northern region's dried fruits and winter root vegetables. Ashkenazim borrowed dumplings from Poland and Russia to create matzo balls and gefilte fish.

Sephardic Jews, of the Mediterranean region, emphasize fresh vegetables and fruit. A Sephardic Seder might include poached or fried fish, a beef bake, pepper salad, fresh fruit and matzo clusters.

Poached Fish With Egg and Lemon Sauce

Serves 6

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 pieces firm-fleshed fish

juice of 1 lemon (divided use)

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons chopped celery or parsley

1 small bay leaf

2 eggs or 2 yolks

Put oil in deep-sided pan and pack fish in fairly tight. Add half the lemon juice, salt and pepper and water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer.

After 10 minutes, add celery or parsley and bay leaf. Simmer 10 minutes more.

Just before serving, beat eggs or yolks with remaining lemon juice. Whisk in a few spoonfuls of the cooking stock; pour over the fish and shake the pan well to incorporate with the rest of the liquid. Reheat but do not boil. Serve immediately.

Per serving: calories 180; fat 6 grams; cholesterol 148 milligrams; sodium 233 milligrams; percent calories from fat 31 percent.

Passover Beef Bake

Serves 6

1 small onion, chopped

1 pound ground beef

4 tablespoons oil (divided use)

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons water

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/4 cups mashed potatoes (boil potatoes in salted water)

5 eggs (divided use)

4 sheets matzo, soaked in water and drained

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet over medium heat, brown the onion and meat in 2 tablespoons of oil. Drain off fat, if desired. Then add the parsley, water and seasonings. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir together the mashed potatoes and 4 of the eggs; season to taste with salt. Reserve 1/3 for the topping. Add the remaining egg to 2/3 of the potato mixture and add to the beef.

In a 9-by-9-inch oiled casserole, layer matzo and meat alternately, finishing with a layer of matzo. Top with reserved potato mixture and brush with remaining oil. Bake for about an hour.

Per serving: calories 423; fat 26 grams; cholesterol 228 milligrams; sodium 372 milligrams; percent calories from fat 55 percent.

Matzo Cluster

Makes 30 pieces

1 cup sugar

1 pound golden syrup (see note)

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup water

4 cups matzo meal

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

In a heavy saucepan over high heat, boil together sugar, golden syrup, honey and water until mixture spins a thread when a spoon is lifted out of the pan.

Remove from heat and stir in matzo meal, walnuts and ginger, mixing well. Turn mixture onto oiled board and with wet hands form mixture into 3 ropes about 1 inch in diameter. Cut into small pieces, cool then store in airtight container.

Note: Golden syrup is available at specialty stores such as Sutton Place Gourmet and Eddie's.

Per piece: calories 144; fat 3 grams; cholesterol trace; sodium 98 milligrams; percent calories from fat 18 percent.

Charoset

Yields 2 quarts

8 apples

2 pounds pitted dates

3 cups water

1 cup coarsely chopped almonds

2 cups chopped dried apricots

2 cups raisins

1 cup kosher wine

1/2 cup vinegar (optional)

sugar to taste

Peel, core and quarter apples. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, boil apples with the dates and the water until tender. Drain and mash. Add remaining ingredients and adjust seasoning. Cool and refrigerate.

Per serving: calories 104; fat 2 grams;no cholesterol; sodium 22 milligrams; percent calories from fat 15 percent.

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