Passover, the Jewish religion's biggest food holiday starts this Monday night with the traditional Seder dinner. To aide you in your celebration I've come up with a wonderful menu based on the customary foods of the Seder. To start things off serve a few dishes that will please guests with their accordance to the traditions of Passover and their flavor packed deliciousness. Matzo, the cracker like flat-bread is incorporated into a classic soup, the haroset's sweetness mirrors the sweetness of freedom, and the maror - or bitter herbs that represent the sorrow of slavery - is seen in the green horseradish sauce that is paired with the fish cakes (gefilte fish). For the recipes,

Matzo Ball Soup
From Bob Spiegel

4 Tablespoons schmaltz (chicken fat)
1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut up [in 8 pieces]
10 cups mineral or filtered water
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 bunch fresh thyme, leaves chopped and stems reserved
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups fresh shelled green peas
½ cup dry vermouth
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Matzo Balls:
2 ½ cups mineral or filtered water
3/4 cup schmaltz (chicken fat), or vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 cups matzoh meal
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ teaspoon ground ginger
7 eggs

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Add the water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, reserve the poaching liquid, and when cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bones and set aside. Strain the poaching liquid to remove solids, reserving 8 cups, and set aside.*
  2. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and sweat for 4 minutes, until tender.
  3. Tie the thyme stems together and add them to the pot with the bay leaves, salt and pepper.
  4. Add the chicken and reserved poaching liquid and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, to make the matzoh balls, combine the water, schmaltz, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  6. Gradually add the matzoh meal and stir with a wire whisk until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.
  7. Stir in the parsley and ginger and mix well.
  8. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently.
  9. Drop the matzoh dough by heaping spoonfuls into the simmering soup.
  10. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
  11. Stir in the chopped thyme, vermouth, and garlic and heat through.
  12. To serve, remove the bay leaves and thyme stems, ladle the soup into bowls, and top with the chopped parsley.

* To de-fat the stock, refrigerate for 1 hour, until a fat layer forms on the surface. Skim the layer of fat off the top and discard.

Serves 10.

From All Recipes

6 apples - peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon white sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/3 cup sweet red wine

  1. Place the apples and walnuts into a large bowl.
  2. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar; sprinkle over the apples.
  3. Stir in the honey and sweet wine.
  4. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving.

Herbed Fish Cakes With Green Horseradish Sauce
From Bon Appetit magazine

1 3/4 to 2 pounds skinless striped bass fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup (generous) minced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for frying
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Green Horseradish Sauce, recipe below

  1. Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using/on off turns, finely chop 1/2 of fish in processor (do not puree to paste); transfer to bowl. Repeat with remaining fish.
  2. Mix in onion, parsley, cilantro, 3 1/2 tablespoons oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Using wet hands and generous 1/4 cupful for each, shape mixture into 3x2x1/2-inch cakes. Arrange on prepared baking sheet. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, sauté cakes until opaque in center, adding more oil to skillet by tablespoonfuls as needed, about 4 minutes per side.
  5. Transfer to platter. Serve warm or at room temperature with horseradish sauce.

Green Horseradish Sauce
From Bon Appetit magazine
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/4 cup chopped arugula leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
6 tablespoons drained prepared white horseradish
2 1/2 tablespoons (or more) dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

  1. Place spinach in sieve and press very dry. Place 1/4 cup firmly packed spinach in processor (reserve remainder for another use). Add arugula and parsley; chop finely.
  2. Add remaining ingredients; blend. Add more wine by tablespoonfuls to thin to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer to bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

Check back later today for the second course and dessert of this scrumptious Seder dinner.