Why Our Italian Kitchen Cooks Passover Seder Meals

ITALIAN OR JEWISH… The Kitchen is where My family's culture comes together.

I get asked all the time "Why does Maria's Italian Kitchen prepare Passover meals?” and many are surprised by my answer.

It is because I celebrate Passover! I was raised by an Italian Catholic mother, I married a Jewish man, and my son attended Jewish day school until he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. In my home we celebrate all holidays including Easter and Passover with great food prepared with love. It’s that simple!

In fact the most famous fresco “The Last Supper,“ painted by Leonardo da Vinci, depicts a Passover Seder. It resides (actually it is painted on the wall) in a church in Milan. My mother Maria and I visited that small church in 2000. There was a long line to get in, but somehow my mothers charm got her in. She had tears in her eyes at the site of that fresco (painted while the mortar was wet so it set and that is why it is still visible centuries later). It is a part of the Church.

I am not alone in my multi-cultural attitude, especially when it comes to food. Evan Kleiman wrote an essay in the LA times titled, "Cross Cultural Cooking" and shared how she grew up in a Jewish home but fell in love with Italy, the food and the people. In fact she shares that she had been looking for a grandmother her whole life and “found her in kitchens all over Italy.” Evan sounds more like my mom when she speaks of Italian food than I do! They both share Passion and Soul for food culture. I have attached Evan’s Haroset recipe to share with you. I love it because it is different and I enjoy the citrus flavors, which complement our NEW Lemon Ricotta Kugel recipe.

This Passover Seder meal can be a little on the heavy side so we added a light Baby Spring Salad with arugula, fennel, and radishes with a balsamic vinaigrette. We also included Market Roasted Vegetables that are fresh and healthy.

The Moc Chopped Liver is totally vegetarian and once you taste it you will think you are eating the real thing. Made with peas, walnuts and eggs it is smooth and creamy. I like to serve it at room temperature. 

Our Matzo Ball Soup is made with Chicken Bone Broth which we simmer for 24 hours (we do not use a fake base like many others do). It is clear and rich in flavor.

How about a little more cross culture cooking? Our NEW Lemon Ricotta Kugel is made with Kosher for Passover noodles which are gluten free too. It is not Kosher but it is delicious and made with fresh lemon zest and a hint of spice, slightly sweet and savory.  Maybe we will share this recipe with you soon 😊 

Our Brisket of Beef is simmered for hours with onions and carrots. It is moist and the gravy has just a hint of sweetness. I enjoy serving it with creamy mashed potatoes.

Our Roasted Chicken is my all-time favorite comfort food. Roasted with Italian parsley, olive oil, herbs and smothered by onions. 

We also include Traditional Tzimmes; carrots, sweet potatoes, and dried plums. What in the world is Tzimmes (pronounced SIM-MESS )?  Any time my mom would start yelling, my dad who was 100% Italian would say “Hey, don’t make a Tzimmes out of it,” which means a big deal or fuss. I did not know what that word meant and I asked my dad why he would use it. He told me that when he was visiting his aunt in Brooklyn he earned 25 cents to turn on the lights at the Rabbi's house and he would hear them speaking Yiddish. He heard “SIM MESS” said often then asked what it meant. He grinned and said it was a perfect word to use in our Crazy Italian Family. 

Last but not least are our Handmade Coconut Macaroons dipped in Callebaut Belgium chocolate. We dip them right down the middle so you can choose whether you want to eat the plain side or the chocolate side, or both! They are so light that you'll want to eat more than just one.

Evan's Haroset
A Sephardic version of Passover Haroset made with dates, raisins, apricots, oranges and spices.
Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. pitted dates
  • 1/2 lb. raisins mixed golden and black
  • 1 lb. dried Turkish apricots
  • 2-3 whole navel oranges washed
  • 1-2 cups dry red wine or pomegranate juice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seed optional
  • 1 cup toasted nuts of your choice (almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts)

Directions:

  1. Check dates to be sure there are no pits. Remove and discard the little hard bit on the stem end. Trim the stem and blossom end of the oranges but don't peel them. Cut the oranges into 1/4s then cut each of those pieces in half horizontally.
  2. Start grinding or processing the ingredients a little at a time using the orange pieces to move things along. If grinding remember to place a bowl underneath the opening of the grinder to catch the ingredients as they fall. With a food processor use the steel blade and divide the ingredients in 4 batches. As each batch is processed move it to a bowl.
  3. When all the dry fruit and orange is ground or processed add the spices the wine or pomegranate juice and mix. You might need to use your hands (with gloves if that makes you more comfortable) because the mixture is sticky. You can mix the nuts into the mixture or use them as garnish. Some ambitious people make balls out of the mixture and roll them in nuts. That would not be me. Store well covered with plastic wrap touching the fruit paste.
  4. Makes 3.5 lbs or 1.5 packed quarts

For more recipes make sure to follow #Evan Kleiman on social media, and tune into her radio show!