by Pat Eby
When families come together to celebrate the Easter or Passover holidays this spring, favorite family dishes are sure to appear. For Quinn S. and her husband Ray H., an Easter brunch brings three generations from both families to the table. Certain dishes, like Grandma H.’s potato salad and an egg and sausage strata must be on the menu. It’s tradition. Both dishes carry hefty fat and calorie counts, but Quinn and Ray work to lighten the rest of the brunch.
“I changed my diet when I turned fifty,” Quinn said. “We cook more locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. Now, we make nearly everything from scratch. We’ve lowered the fat in recipes and added more spice.”
Quinn incorporates her dietary changes at the holidays, adding more fruits and vegetables and offering lower-calorie choices. The salad Quinn makes with spring greens, fresh berries and candied pecans soon became a family favorite. “For Thanksgiving and Christmas, I make the salad with dried cranberries instead of fresh berries,” she said.
She and her sister-in-law Pat both create elaborate holiday tables to surprise and delight guests. Spring themes include birds, wildlife, rabbits, eggs and flowers. The ritual creates a special memory for each gathering and nurtures closeness within the family.
Marlene M. writes The Jewish Hostess blog, a lively site with beautiful photos of Shabbat and holiday table settings, party ideas and recipes both delicious and healthy. Parties aren’t her life, but she recognized the importance of families celebrating well when she researched the history of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn for a documentary film she’s producing.
“I’d ask these older women ‘How do you keep your family together?’ and they would say, ‘I feed them.’ The research showed me the importance of this. That’s why and how I started the blog. To share. I have contests for place settings and recipes. We have a community,” Marlene said.
The easy-to-navigate site tabs easily to recipes for the Jewish holidays and Shabbat dinners, each illustrated with lush photos. The recipes reflect Marlene’s passion for well-prepared, nutritious foods. Passover selections include kale and goat cheese muffin soufflés, juicy matzo stuffed chicken cutlets, Syrian meat kebabs and roast lamb with spinach and matzo meal stuffing.
For Marlene, the Passover holiday holds special significance. “In Syria, we didn’t have freedom of religion. Jews couldn’t leave. Then, in 1992, at the beginning of the Passover holiday, Assad gave permission for them to leave,” she said. Passover celebrates the movement of Jewish slaves out of Egypt in the time of the Pharoahs.
“I am thankful to live in religious freedom; for all religions. You don’t have to be Jewish to cherish freedom.”
Celebrate well. Join with family, with friends of the heart and share a meal or a Seder. Make favorite dishes. Create new and healthy alternatives. Enjoy the day. Take time to reflect on the wonders of spring.
Grilled California Lamb and Asparagus with Mustard Aioli
Recipe and photo reprinted with permission of California Lamb
Yield: 6 servings
Spring lamb often highlights Easter meals or Passover Seders. Try grilling lamb with fresh asparagus. For more delicious lamb recipes, visit California Lamb.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1-1/2 pounds lamb sirloin
1-1/2 pounds jumbo asparagus, divided
Olive oil as needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
1. To prepare the mustard aioli, combine mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Mix well, cover and refrigerate until serving.
2. Cut lamb sirloin into 1-1/2-inch cubes.
3. Wash asparagus. Trim or break woody end from spears. Cut into half a pound of the asparagus into 1-1/2-inch pieces. Brush lamb cubes and asparagus lightly with oil.
4. Thread lamb and asparagus on skewers. Season with salt. Grill medium-high heat about 10 minutes, until lamb is medium (160?F) or medium-rare (145?F)
5. Toss the remaining asparagus spears with oil and grill in a grill pan until done.
6. If you prefer, you may grill the lamb on skewers and grill the asparagus in a grill pan.
7. Plate and serve with mustard aioli.
Berry Salad with Candied Pecans and Raspberry Vinaigrette
Yield: 8 servings
Quinn S. makes this lively salad with mixed spring greens. Feel free to substitute spinach, red or green leaf lettuce or palest green butter crunch.
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced or quartered
1 pint blackberries
1 15-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
8 cups spring salad greens, mixed
1 teaspoon cold water
1 egg white
1 pound large shelled pecan halves
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raspberry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1. Toss washed, prepared fruits with greens and set aside.
2. Beat water and egg white. Mix in pecans until coated.
3. Combine sugar, cinnamon and salt. Mix with pecans.
Spread on a cookie sheet. Bake at 225 degree for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
4. In a small deep bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking as you pour.
*Note: 1-1/2 cups pecans may be substituted for the candied pecans
Here are some more Easter/Passover dishes for your celebration:
Apples to Apples. Sure to Please Salads for Easter and Passover.
Sweet crisp apples, lemon zest, and light dressings make these two salads a healthy choice at spring holiday tables.
Try this low-fat version of a Waldorf salad. Add grated carrot and raisins to chopped apples, celery, lemon juice and zest. Toss with a yogurt honey-Dijon dressing and top with Grandma’s nuts.
Sweet and Skinny Apple Salad
1 medium Pink Lady or other sweet, crisp apple
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 stalks celery
1 medium carrot
2 tablespoons raisins
4 tablespoons fat-free plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Marzetti’s fat-free Honey-Dijon dressing – or – 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Grandma’s nuts
1. Quarter and core apple. Cut into small bite-sized pieces. Toss with lemon juice and zest.
2. Cut celery stalks in half length-wise, then chop into 1/4-inch pieces.
3. Peel and coarsely grate carrot.
4. Toss cut celery, grated carrot, and raisins with the apples.
5. Whisk yogurt and Dijon dressing together. Pour over salad and toss.
6. Divide and plate the salad. Top with one tablespoon of Grandma’s nuts over each serving.
For more Waldorf-inspired recipes, check out The Kitchen Project blog.
Or make this apple-nut charoset with its honeyed-wine dressing. Charoset, a traditional Passover food, symbolizes the mortar the Israelites used to make bricks when they were enslaved in Egypt. The dressing turns the apples a lovely pink color. Make three to four hours ahead so the dressing infuses the apples. Add pecans just before serving.
Yield: 2 servings
1 medium Pink Lady or other crisp sweet apple
1 lemon, juice and zest
1/4 cup red wine
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup pecan pieces, toasted
Quarter and core apple. Cut into fine pieces, uniform in size. Toss with lemon juice and zest.
Whisk together red wine, honey and cinnamon until the honey is incorporated and the cinnamon suspends.
Pour wine over apples. Chill three to four hours, turning each hour to allow the dressing to flavor the apples.
Remove from the refrigerator a half-hour before serving. Just before plating the salad, toss with toasted pecans.
Divide into two portions and serve.
For more versions of charoset recipes using dried cherries and raisins, dates and pomegranates, check out the feature “A fresh look at the Passover table” by Joe Bonwich in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Click on recipes in the related stories box for more charoset ideas. Other recipes, which can be accessed through the recipe box feature at the site, include Spring Quinoa Salad with Parsley-Walnut Pesto, Passover Root Vegetable Casserole Matzo Brei Shepherd’s Pie and Passover Sliders with Caramelized Onions.
For even more Easter dinner ideas, check out our Easy Easter Dinner article from last Easter.