This week, the ritual feast marking the Jewish holiday of Passover also doubles as a time for seder plates using seasonal spring ingredients. Below, we asked a few notable chefs—including Alon Shaya and Melia Marden—to share recipes that put a healthy, modern spin on what to eat this holiday.
Alon Shaya of Shaya in New Orleans
“Charoset is served at Passover seders all over the world. I like to take a Piemontese approach based on my deep love for the cuisine of that region. I combine figs, dates, hazelnuts, pistachios and Moscato d’Asti with apples and onions. All of the nuts and apples really keep it healthy; it’s not overly sweet, either, which keeps the sugar levels down.”
Yields about 4 cups
10 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
7 or 8 dried figs (6 oz.), chopped
6 oz. (about 1 cup) dried apricots, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar, preferably seasoned
1/3 cup sweet sparkling white wine, preferably Moscato d’Asti
1/3 cup sugar
3 T honey
3 T apricot preserves
1/4 tsp. Morton kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
Zest from 1/2 orange
Zest from 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1 1/2 T orange juice
Roughly chop the dates, figs, and apricots, removing any woody stems or ends. Add them to a food processor along with the hazelnuts and pistachios and pulse to coarsely chop, taking care not to pulverize it into a paste. It’s okay if some of the nuts remain whole. Set aside.
Add the apples and onion to a large saucepan with the vinegar, wine, and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pot. Cook until the onions are translucent but the apples still hold their shape, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Scoop everything from the food processor into the saucepan with the onions and apples; add the honey, apricot preserves, salt, spices, and zests. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the dried fruit has softened and absorbed the juices from the pan and the liquid has reduced to a point where it’s no longer bubbling. When you give it a taste, the flavor should be warm with fruit, alive with spice, with just a savory note in the background. The apples should still have some body to them.
Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before stirring in the orange and lemon juice. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for several days.
My Mom’s Coffee-Braised Brisket
Michael Solomonov of Zahav in Philadelphia
“This is my take on the dish my mother served at virtually every special-occasion dinner of my childhood. My grandmother made her brisket with carrots, potatoes, and Heinz Chili Sauce, which gave it a traditional sweet-and-sour flavor. My mother added the coffee. In my version, I add cardamom to evoke Turkish coffee and replace the sweetness of that chili sauce with the deeper flavor of dried apricots.”
For an even healthier touch, Solomonov says “the fat can be skimmed off in the cooking process too!”
2 T finely ground coffee
1 1/2 T ground cardamom
1 1/2 T ground black cardamom
1 T, plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 brisket (first cut, about 4 lbs.)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large onions, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
10 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dried apricot
2 cups brewed coffee
8 large eggs in their shells
Grated fresh horseradish
Mix the ground coffee, cardamom, black cardamom, and salt in a small bowl and rub into the brisket. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a rack inside a roasting pan. Put the brisket on the rack and roast until the exterior has browned, about 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it reduces slightly, about 2 more minutes.
Transfer the vegetables to the roasting pan with the rack removed. Add the brisket, dried apricots, brewed coffee, and eggs in their shells. Add enough water to bring the liquid halfway up the side of the brisket.
Cover the pan tightly with two layers of foil, return to the oven, and braise for 1 hour. Remove the eggs, gently tap them all over to make a network of small cracks, and return them to the braise. Continue cooking until the brisket shreds easily with a fork, about 3 more hours. Let the brisket cool in its braising liquid, then refrigerate overnight.
To serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the cold brisket, return to the braising liquid, and bake until warmed through, about 30 minutes. Spoon the broth over the meat. Serve with the peeled eggs and grated fresh horseradish.
Mackerel Scaveccio With Charred Spring Onions, Marjoram, and Toasted Pine Nuts
Hillary Sterling of Vic’s in New York City
“Scaveccio is a Tuscan version of Venetian sarde in saor, traditionally eel, fried and marinated in vinegar, and cooked sweet onions. Here, we take a heavy dish and translate into a light, healthy spring Passover-friendly dish.”
1 Spanish mackerel filet, cut into 2 portions, around 5 oz. each
1 bunch spring onions, 5-8 pieces, split in half
Zest of freshly grated lemon
1 T lemon juice
3 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
3-4 sprigs marjoram leaves
1 T pine nuts, coarsely chopped
Whisk together zest, lemon juice, and salt to taste, then add olive oil in a stream, whisking until combined well and then add the leaves of marjoram sprigs.
Set your grill or grill pan to medium to hot temperature. Once the grill is hot, reduce heat to a medium flame. Oil the skin side of the fish and season the flesh with salt. Place the fish skin side down on the grill until crispy, around 4 minutes. Remove from the grill, and if necessary, place skin side up in a 400-degree oven to finish cooking.
Take the split onions and season with salt and olive oil. Place on the grill, cut side down on medium-to-high heat. Once the onions are caramelized, flip to a lower-temperature section of the grill until the onions become tender. Dress onions with red wine vinegar and place on top of the fish. Pour the lemon vinaigrette over both and garnish with toasted chopped pine nuts and the remaining marjoram leaves.
Jenn Louis of Ray Restaurant in Portland, Oregon
“I fell in love with this traditional herb condiment and spread through my travels in Israel. I now prepare it at Passover to add flavor to chicken, use it as a sauce for brisket, or to spread on matzo. It’s made with olive oil, onion, garlic, parsley, pistachio, lemons, and dukkah, so it’s super-flavorful without any guilt.”
Makes 3 cups
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more to finish
1 yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic
12 cups packed arugula** leaves, preferably young
Stems from 1 bunch mint (about 1/2 oz.)
Tender stems from 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (about 1.5 oz.)
1 cup pistachios, lightly toasted
Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Dukkah, homemade (or store-bought) for garnish
Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-4 minutes until translucent and tender. Stir often. Add the arugula and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until the arugula is wilted and mostly dry. Place on a tray and cool completely in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
Put the cooled arugula in a blender with the mint and parsley stems, pistachios, lemon zest, and salt. Process until pureed. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
To serve, place the dip on a plate or in a bowl, sprinkle with dukkah, and drizzle with olive oil.
**You can also try this recipe with chard or spinach in place of arugula.
Swiss Chard Gratin With Matzoh
Andy Bennett of Rouge Tomate in New York City
“I love this dish because when you think of gratin, you usually think rich, high in fat. I like to look for ways to make dishes without compromising on the flavor. This dish has zero cream, but still has that creamy texture from the cauliflower. It’s a great trick that translates well to things like pasta sauces.”
2 cups of Swiss chard wilted in olive oil
2 cups of cauliflower
1/2 cup of Taleggio cheese (or whatever cheese you like)
Crushed matzo, enough to top the dish
Salt and pepper to taste
Wilt swiss chard in olive oil. Steam or boil the cauliflower in salted water, and when really soft, puree with a bit of that water and the Taleggio cheese in a blender until smooth. Heat wilted chard and cauliflower and cheese mixture in a pan to bind together. Place in a serving dish, top with crushed matzo and grated Taleggio. Gratin under the broiler until golden brown. Serve with matzo on the side for dipping.
Asparagus and Fava Beans with Shallot Vinaigrette
Melia Marden of The Smile and Smile to Go, New York City
“I think it’s nice to have a fresh green side with an acidic kick to compliment the richer classic Passover dishes like brisket, matzo ball soup, and potato kugel. For those who eat legumes on Passover, this is the perfect spring side dish.”
3 T finely minced shallots
3 T red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
1/2 tsp. sugar
6 T extra virgin olive oil
3 bunches large asparagus
2 cups fresh fava beans, peeled (you can use frozen peeled fava beans as well)
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
For the shallot vinaigrette: Combine the shallots, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Add olive oil and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Break off tough, woody ends of asparagus where they naturally break and discard. Slice on a bias into 1 1/2–inch thick pieces.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook until just tender but still bright green, about 50 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking.
Bring another pot of water to a boil and cook favas until just tender, about 30 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Combine asparagus, favas, shallot dressing and parsley in a serve bowl and mix well. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with more parsley to serve.